Tag Archives: Shifting Cultivation

The illusion of permanence

Traditionally, people that lived in the tropics and in the intact rainforest were nomads and used a shifting cultivation to till their land and grow their food: after using a piece of land for one, two or three years they left it, moved on, burned down another part of the forest and let the earlier one regenerate.

They were nomads in the real sense, took the stuff they needed with themselves and gave everything else back to the forest. They didn’t do that because of any superstitious believes but rather for the simple reason that that’s the best and most sustainable way of using the land and the soil in a tropical ecosystem. Here in this environment plant and animal species find optimal conditions to develop quickly and the number of species competing for a niche and a living space is higher than anywhere else in the world.

Indigenous people are well aware of that, they know the forest and their land. Only privatisation has made this kind of agriculture or even lifestyle impossible. Everybody is playing a game against nature and his/her own natural resources on his/her own territory.

The Lupa Masa Rainforest Camp is probably a little older than a year; the wooden structures start to rod because of moist; insecticides are supposed to keep termites away from building their houses in the huts; here and there reparations are necessary… the search for permanence becomes a battle against impermanence… against the inherit nature of the jungle… the inherit nature of all things in this world.

Lucie and I will try to set up a farming system around this camp… in a permaculture way. We’re basically trying to establish a permanent culture/agriculture in an impermanent environment. Seems like an illusion… However, the fact that we have permaculture principles that incorporate the impermanent nature of this world gives a lot of hope in that regard. The best idea we think is to use, like permaculture suggests, local plants, mostly perennials, to build up a food forest, imitating the natural forest with fruit-giving plants; a system that will feed back to the forest as it takes and hopefully, in due time, reach a state of climax. In accepting the illusion of permanence we might be able to find its true meaning and a way to it through the reality of impermanence.