For riverside dwellers who have a close relationship with the waters from an early age, canoeing is as natural as walking.
Mamirauá Reserve Community during the flood season
I already told a little here on the blog about the riverside communities of Mamirauá. As a naturalist guide that I am (not to mention a methodical person 😀) in the first post I gave a brief historical context and in this we can approach more the current dynamics of the communities.
The aspect that most calls the attention of the guests of Uakari Lodge during the visit to the communities is certainly the resilience of the riverside people in the face of the water cycle. The Mamirauá Sustainable Development Reserve is fully inserted in a lowland environment, which is a type of floodable forest in the Amazon. That is, there are two main annual seasons: the flood (which here in Mamirauá runs from February to August and the rivers receive an average of 10 meters of water) and the drought (September to January). This dynamic, at the same time that it offers attractions for human populations (fishing resources and fertile soil), imposes some difficulties (up to 4 months without dry land, for example). Although it is not an easy life, most human populations in the Amazon are concentrated in lowland areas.
Local resident of Mamirauá Reserve weaving fishing net.
Human beings, like other inhabitants of the floodplain forest, developed special strategies to inhabit this environment. Just by looking at the houses, it is possible to conclude that, the riverside dwellers live in elevated wooden houses or floating houses, so when the flood comes and the floor disappears, the houses are not submerged. In some years, however, the flood is greater and may exceed the floor of the houses, forcing the riverside residents to build another higher floor for this period or to seek shelter at the homes of relatives in the cities.
The riverside people use boats and canoes to travel during the flood, mainly for fishing (which is the main activity of many of them) and also to carry out their tasks within the community, since it is not possible to walk. But for riverside dwellers who have this close relationship with the river from an early age (it is normal to see small children learning to swim or accompany their parents to fish and other seven-year-olds rowing and fishing alone) canoeing is as natural as walking.
During the drought, it is possible to plant cassava and manioc (which together with fish are the region’s dietary bases), corn, jerimum, beach beans, watermelon and others. As the soil is very fertile, cassava, which usually takes a year to be good to harvest, is harvested here in six months. At the end of the harvest, riverside dwellers produce Uarini flour by hand, this variety of cassava flour also called ovinha (because it has a ball shape like fish eggs) is the region’s favorite and has been declared a cultural and food heritage of the Amazon. The flour can be stored to be consumed during the flood by the family and the surplus will be taken to the cities so that the riverside dwellers can sell and thus exchange for other products such as coffee, powdered milk, rice, etc.
Mamirauá Reserve Community during the dry season.
These activities: taking care of the land, planting, harvesting, preparing flour are usually the responsibility of each family, but there are activities that the whole community performs together, such as joint efforts (known here as ajuris) for cleaning and cutting the grass during drought. In fact, this sense of community and the organization of the communities is very interesting, most of them are a formal association that has a board (president, vice, secretary, treasurer, etc.) elected by the community.
There are many interesting aspects in community life and because it is a completely different reality from the majority experienced by our guests, visits to communities are always an exercise in learning and empathy. Even if I wanted to translate this experience into text, I wouldn’t be able to … you will simply have to visit us!
. Text: Cynthia Lebrão
. Images: Gui Gomes