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The chagra, the millenary work for the fertility of the Amazon

The chagra, the millenary work for the fertility of the Amazon

Men and women share powers to live in communion. He was given coca and tobacco where knowledge rests, and she was given the seed of the chagra for the fertility of life and food. This has been the principle that is transmitted through orality to the new generations of indigenous peoples, from the origin and settlement in their territories.

The chagra is a term that is given to a plot of cultivation that generally includes one hectare of forest in the Colombian Amazon and, since millennia, the cultivation of the chagra has been the responsibility of women from an early age when they teach them to sow.

Francisco Escobar, belonging to the Bará people - the water people - explains that men do not completely ignore these activities, on the contrary, he says that the function of men is to prepare the ground.

With an ax and a machete they knock down the forest during the summer season, and then burn them carefully and thus avoid a forest fire. All this, duly authorized by the traditional authorities during said season so that, finally, the women do their job before the rains arrive.

Josefina Pérez Bernal is 67 years old, belongs to the Tuyuca people -The fish people-, and has been cultivating chagra for more than 60 years in the company of her husband. He assures that he still has the seeds that he inherited from his grandmother.

“Without the chagra, we cannot eat. Sweet cassava, wild cassava, pineapple, sweet potato, sugarcane, yam, banana, chili pepper, all these products are the food of the families and old people will disappear with us, ”says Josefina.

In these jungle territories, rice, grains, including vegetables, are alien to the diet, on the other hand, fariña and casabe that are prepared with the wild yucca, are fundamental as water to survive in the Amazon.

Yucca brava is a tuber that contains toxic properties and is lethal if it is not prepared, the lack of transmission of this knowledge can cause death where the less lethal symptoms are diarrhea, stomach pain and chills.

The chagra was conceived from its origin as one more learning scenario for the new generations, but this has been changing with the education model that, through boarding schools, distances students from their traditions and, on the other hand, with access to new technologies where new cultural trends are promoted every day.

The work of the chagra is an ancient occupation where parents share time with their children and grandparents with their grandchildren. However, the responsibility of the harvest rests with the woman, who, in addition, promotes the integration of the family in a scenario that tends to disappear, and with it, the fertility of the Amazon.

By Emerson J. Castro

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