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Forest Gardening

Forest gardens represent a farming technique for which Western agricultural models and concepts leave little room. For many primary people around the world the cultivation and redesigning of patches of forest to create a reliable source of foodstuffs is elemental to their survival. For some Amazonian people (suppossed hunter/gatherers) for instance it is calculated that 90% of their diet is produced in their gardens. The fact that many trained observers (like ethnobotanists) can completely miss a forest garden when they are right in front of it indicates that they are not just an accomplished and ecological sound cultural achievement, but that they inhibit a conceptual space beyond our immediate perception.

To qoute Vandana Shiva:

In the `scientific’ system which splits forestry from agriculture and reduces forestry to timber and wood supply, food is no longer a category related to forestry. The cognitive space that relates forestry to food production, either directly, or through fertility links, is therefore erased with the split. Knowledge systems which have emerged from the food giving capacities of the forest are therefore eclipsed and finally destroyed, both through neglect and aggression. Most local knowledge systems have been based on the life-support capacities of tropical forests, not on their commercial timber value. These systems fall in the blind spot of a forestry perspective that is based exclusively on the commercial exploitation of forests. If some of the local uses can be commercialised, they are given the status of `minor products'; with timber and wood being treated as the `major products’ in forestry. The creation of fragmented categories thus blinkers out the entire spaces in which local knowledge exists, knowledge which is far closer to the life of the forest and more representative of its integrity and diversity.

Forest gardens work with the rainforest instead of against it, gardens have high species diversity, with a few specimens of many species, to keep the bugs out. Special adjustments may be done to attract animals (from useful insects to tasty wildlife and also tasty insects).

For forest people, gardening is perhaps a state of mind, a mode they are never out of. The entire amazon is now believed to one huge man-made landscape kept intact by contant pruning and weeding as humans move through it.

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