ADVANTAGES

It is argued that, with proper techniques, including irrigation, sustainable agriculture can be established on former rainforest soils (soybeans in the Brazilian Amazon, for example). Of course, sugar has been raised in the Caribbean and rice has been successfully cropped for thousands of years in Southeast Asia on tropical forest soils. This type of agriculture is possible where soils are fertile, as in the regions of Indonesia which have rich volcanic soils. But elsewhere, as in East Java, only the most marginal agriculture (raising tapioca and other low-nutrient tubers) is possible, and these areas are extremely poor. Some nonvolcanic rainforest areas lie on reasonably fertile soils (especially in deltas) and can sometimes sustain appropriate crops. Recently, archeologists have discovered the remains of ancient agricultural systems in the Beni region of Bolivia. These artefacts lie in seasonally-flooded savannas which have long been thought to be useful only for cattle ranching. However, the many raised agricultural fields, fish ponds and other agricultural constructions indicate that these areas have been productive in the past. Recently, the construction of similar raised fields in savanna areas in Bolivia has permitted the cultivation of tubers, maize, and manioc (Mann, 2000). If more of these areas could be converted to productive agriculture, they could provide a source of land as an alternative to rainforest removal. Often, however, governments encourage and indeed, almost coerce the development of unsuitable agricultural products, although they should not attempt to introduce non-native species and unsuitable crops or domestic animals into forest areas. For example, the Peruvian government has aggressively promoted the introduction of rice cultivation and water buffalo husbandry into many areas of the Amazon rainforest. In most places, rice is a most unsuitable cultivar, and water buffalo have caused serious erosion of riverbanks and destruction of vegetation.

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