The Guarani Farming System Inside the Jungle
The Guarani tribe had a farming system that required frequent moves. Their farm fields were located inside the jungle, sheltered from the winds. Ancient Guarani people cleared the vegetation of the chosen ground with precarious axes made of stone, and cut down trees over 115 feet tall and 35 inches in diameter.
Once this hard work was done, they waited two or three months until the cut vegetation dried up, and then they burned it. After the first rains, the group leader summoned the people, in a party atmosphere, to work together sowing the land.
Between cut tree stumps and ashes, which worked as a fertilizer, they made holes and mainly planted corn and bitter cassava. They also cultivated sweet cassava, yams, pumpkins, peanut, beans, chili peppers, pineapples, tobacco, cotton, and some medicinal herbs.
This primitive cultivation system, known as “slash and burn”, was used by many jungle towns because it is very effective and protects the soil. But their work did not end there; some of those plants required a lot of processing to be edible, such as the peanut (it had to be toasted) and the bitter cassava, because both of them are toxic in their natural state. In order to extract the bitter cassava poison, they grated it and squeezed it with presses made of palm leaves (see the drawing), and then they toasted it, obtaining a very nutritious flour.