Shanty Towns

Home life for people in the Favelas is very difficult. Most families have no water, electric light or toilets. They live and do their cooking in just one room, although most people who live in Favelas do have a television. To help people in Favelas a low-cost housing project of simple apartment blocks has been started to help families who live in Favelas. The blocks are built with stairs and no lofts to avoid expensive maintenance costs.


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During the 20th century, Rio’s old houses were torn down as large highways were built across the city. Once quiet streets became broad avenues choked with traffic. Towering office buildings soared, only to be torn down to make room for buildings that soared even higher!

This is a picture of Skyscrapers in Rio De Janeiro on the coast!

The Amazon Region


Seen from an aircraft, the rainforest is so dense with vegetation that the ground cannot be seen. The light falling on the rainforest canopy encourages the tops of the trees to grow thick and leafy. Mosses, orchids, climbing plants, vines and bromeliads all steal the light from the levels of forest beneath. The canopy almost forms a separate world where certain birds, monkeys and insects can live away from the rest of the forest.

At the mid-forest level there are other trees whose leafy tops barely reach the height at which the giant trees begin to branch. In the gloom of the forest floor below, tall shrubs fill the spaces between the bare tree trunks that seem to spread out endlessly on every side. Rope-like climbing plants called lianas struggle upwards to the canopy, sometimes thicker than the supporting trees. Some of the trees are supported by odd-shaped trunks and long roots that weave a pattern just beneath the soil’s surface, while other trees stand on dozens of stilt-like roots.

Many of the trees of the rainforest have tall smooth trunks that rise for over 30m without branching.

The leaves and branches of the forest floor decompose quickly under the combined action fungi, bacteria and insects.

People of the Rainforest

The Amazon Rainforest is home to various tribes of forest Indians. Between 3 and 5 million Indians were thought to be living in the Amazon forests at the time European settlers arrived in the 16th century. By the beginning of the 20th century less than a million survived. Many Indians died as a result of being taken into slavery, but the name reason for the dramatic fall in numbers was that the Indians had no immunity against unfamiliar European diseases, such as smallpox and influenza. Today, the number of Indians has fallen further, and it is thought that there are less than 200,000 of them living in small, scattered communities throughout the rainforest. Even these people’s survival is threatened by the steady disruption of their homes and lifestyles.

To many forest-dwelling Indians, the rainforest is sacred place, home to the spirits that guide them through their daily lives. It provides everything they need, including food, shelter, medicine and clothing. Over the centuries, they have developed a way of living that exists in harmony with their rainforest environment.

Farming the Forest

The fleshy, swollen roots of manioc are one of the staple crops of Amazonia.

Throughout Amazonia, the Indians have come to use methods of cultivation that do not damage the forest. They know that the soils of the rainforest are thin and fragile and so will only support crops for a few years. They use a method of shifting cultivation in the forest which is known as ‘slash and burn’ – clearing a small patch of rainforest for temporary farming before moving on again. If too large an area were to be cut down and burnt, the soil would like open to heavy rainfall. Nutrients would be washed out of the soil and the soil itself would be at risk of being eroded or swept away.

The Kayapo tribe of central Brazil limit this damage by planting varieties of sweet potato that are resistant to fire. By planting them before the burning takes place the potatoes are able to take up nutrients that would otherwise be washed away. The Kayapo also allow weeds to grow in order to hold on to nutrients and protect otherwise bare soil. They know which areas of the new plot are most suited to different plants, so vegetation quickly grows and protects the soil. The tribe spread natural fertilisers on to the cleared land. They use ash from the burnt trees and the nests of termites and biting ants, which are high in nutrients in order to control leaf cutter ants that would destroy their crops, the Kayapo plant a variety of banana tree as hedging. This is the home of a particular kind of wasp that drives ants away.

The principal crop grown throughout Amazonia is manioc, which is used to make cassava bread – the staple diet of many tribes. In its natural state, manioc is poisonous, but by a process of soaking in water, grating and squeezing, it can be made edible. Other crops include maize, yams and plants that provide fibres or medicine.

The Rainforest Provides:

After a tribe has moved on to another part of the forest, the clearing is soon seeded by the surrounding trees and plants, and the area becomes overgrown. However, members of the tribe continue to return to the clearing to harvest the fruit, fibres and medicines of the trees and plants that are growing there. Often they will plant species of trees who’s fruit will attract animals, not only because the animals provide food, but also because they introduce, through their droppings, the seeds of fruit or forest trees that can be harvested.

As well as collecting plants, fruits, berries, nuts, honey and spices from the rainforest, the Indians hunt for fish and animals such as tapirs, wild pigs, rodents, monkeys and birds. They make blowguns and bows for hunting from a black and extremely tough palm wood. The tips of their arrows are dipped in curare, a deadly poison that they extract from a vine. Cooking is simple and the meat is often grilled over hot embers. Sometimes it is mixed with the fleshy underground stems or roots of plants and cooked in turtle or armadillo shells, or in the dried, outer skin of large fleshy fruits called gourds.

The Rivers

The rivers, which many tribes respect as much as the rainforest itself, are rich with fish of many kinds. Among the Tukano Indians of Brazil, it is forbidden to prepare the river banks for the cultivation of crops, as they believe that the river banks belong to the fish. Undisturbed sections of the river, regarded as the resting place of their ancestors, provide excellent places for fish to breed.

People of the Rainforest (continued)

In areas where clay is found, the traditional Indians make pottery containers in which to keep seeds, vegetable dyes and other items gathered from the forest. The houses of the Indians are made from wood and thatch, with strong lianas or tree bark used for tying rafters. Pieces of palm are cut for use as nails to secure timbers. Very often the huts are built on stilts to raise them above the forest floor.

For clothing, some tribes use layers of fibre taken from under the bark of certain trees, but most Indians weave the soft fluffy fibres of wild or cultivated cotton on handmade looms. For decoration, the Indians select natural dyes from the forest, such as the red dye from the annatto plant and the blue dye from the genipa plant, and paint their bodies and clothes with them. Necklaces and bracelets are made from seeds, and head-dresses from bird feathers.

The Healing Forest

Over the centuries, the Indians have discovered that many of the rainforest plants make good medicines. Some can be used as painkillers, or to heal wounds and cure fevers, or for helping to reduce or increase people’s ability to have children. Quinine, a substance that is found in the bark of cinchona tree, is used to treat the deadly disease malaria. Western scientists how to make quinine artificially and now it is manufactured on a large scale in factories.

Another of the rainforest resources, curare, which tribes use to poison their arrowheads for hunting, can be used to relax the muscles of patients in surgical operations. Now that the importance of the rainforest as a source of new medicines is recognised in the industrialised countries, scientists have become concerned that the destruction of the rainforest will mean that many medicinal plants will become extinct. If the traditional lifestyles of the Indians disappear, their valuable knowledge of the rainforest will die too.


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