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Schools World Service

Children of the Rainforest - Secondary School Resources

Life in the Amazon rainforest is changing fast but it's not a simple story and some people welcome the changes. Read more here

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Young people tell their stories of life in the jungle today. Duration 7,20

The Amazon rainforest is one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet and is often called the 'lungs of the world' because it plays such an important role in maintaining the climate and air of the whole world.

But life in the Amazon is changing fast. The rainforest itself is under threat as development and the environment compete. Young people at school in Mondana village in Ecuador are directly affected by the issues the forest faces and these are their stories.

Rivers and roads

The Mondana "school bus" picks up dozens of children every morning along the banks of the River Napo.

The Napo flows from Ecuador into the Amazon. It's one of the Amazon's greatest tributaries, and in Mondana it's also the local highway.

There are very few roads deep in the rainforest and without the school canoe, most of these children would miss out on an education altogether. The journey to school would be too difficult.

But last year a road was built across the river from the school, through Lizbeth's village, and now she and her family can catch the bus to the local market town.

Lizbeth, age 17, lives next to the new road with her mother Rosa.

Teenage girl and her mother talk to the Schools World Service about the new road
Lizbeth, age seventeen, lives near the new road with her mother Rosa

It took just one month to build it, and it has changed their lives.

"I was happy to hear that the road was coming and that there would be cars," said Lizbeth. "Then when they started to destroy the trees it wasn't so good. And the animals as well - they have moved away further into the forest."

But the road was built at the request of the villagers and Lizbeth was on the first bus to market - along with all her family, friends and neighbours. Everyone went together to celebrate.

Just one month to build the road
The local bus from Barrio los Andis to Agua Santos
Before the road was built we were sad. Now we have the road, we are happy
Lizbeth, age seventeen

These days she and her mother take the bus to market every two weeks. They sell fruit and vegetables they grow. "Before the road was built we were sad," said Lizbeth. "Now we have the road, we are happy. We don't have to use the canoe anymore."

The road makes travel and trade easy.

But it also means more people can move into the area, and anyone can come and help themselves to precious wood deep in the forest.

Lizbeth told us that she was sorry about the damage to the forest.

And just a few miles away, they are making the same road wider. It's good for the people, but it's not good for the rainforest.

Oil

Henry goes to school in Mondana but his family live in a small town called Archidona. His family are farmers and Henry loves living in the rainforest.

Two years ago, the family heard that oil has been found in a neighbour's field.

There's been no drilling as yet. Everyone is waiting to see what happens.

Henry and his mother stand in front of a hillside covered in fields and trees
"welcome to my Amazonian paradise"

Henry's mum would like to keep things as they are: "Now we are living a good life. But after this, I'm afraid that my children and my grandchildren won't live like I do."

There has been some serious pollution in Ecuador as a result of the oil industry. Henry is studying the environment at school and he is worried about the potential for pollution in his village.

Some people hope that oil will bring jobs and money. Others, like Henry and his mum, are concerned about the potential for pollution. It's a confusing situation in Archidona and no one knows what will happen.

Feeding the family

Jefferson and his family talking to the Schools World Service team

Not all the changes are the result of big business. Everyday individuals living in the rainforest cut down trees.

We met Jefferson at school. He is fourteen years old and the eldest of six children. He took us home to meet his family.

They make a living from the land growing rice, maize, yucca and bananas. They hunt and fish, and they cut down up to ten trees a month.

"We use the wood to build the house and we sell to other families," Jefferson explained. "Sometimes we get paid by other families to cut down a tree and cut it down into timber with the chainsaw."

Jefferson enjoys helping fell trees: "I like cutting down trees - it's exciting and because I can look out for my dad.

Sometimes if the chain on the chainsaw breaks I help to fix it, or I run back home and fetch the axe. Then when the job's over, I come home and relax."

The family work hard to feed their children, but Jefferson's dad, Luis, is worried that there won't be enough trees and animals for everyone in the future.

Jefferson said, "If everyone keeps cutting down the trees, they will run out. There won't be seeds for them to grow back. The water will run out. The animals will go away."

The children who live here love the forest and are concerned about the environment. But the natural world gives way to them everyday. As their standard of living is improved, the rainforest suffers.

It is hard to see how these children and their families can strike a balance with nature.


Schools World Service is a BBC British Council co-production



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