, Volume 9, Issue 8, pp 1328–1341 | Cite as

Implications of Livelihood Dependence on Non-Timber Products in Peruvian Amazonia

  • Aili Pyhälä
  • Katrina Brown
  • W. Neil Adger


The present and future well-being of the world’s forest dwelling populations depends on their ability to gain livelihood resources from their immediate environment. Sustainable extraction of non-timber forest products has been promoted by conservationists and development agencies as a feasible strategy for forest dwellers that does not compromise the resource base. Yet surveys of actual resource use suggest that for poorer resource-dependent communities without access to markets, non-timber forest products can only ever represent a safety-net activity and a supplementary income source. Others argue that resource availability, in terms of the diversity and productivity of the forest, is the key parameter in realizing a contribution of forest products to well-being. This paper examines the scope and heterogeneity of forest product use to reveal whether resource availability necessarily provides the context for significant contributions to well-being of forest dwellers. We present data from an area of tropical rainforest, close to Iquitos in Peru, which was previously shown to have high potential value. We find, through a census survey of households within a forest reserve area, that non-timber forest products provide only a relatively small portion of income and that only a small proportion of available products are actually commercialized, despite apparent market availability. We show that the low rates of commercialization can be explained by unequal access capital assets used for extraction, to natural resources themselves, and to product markets. They are also explained by the concentration of capital-poor households on subsistence gathering activities. The value of destructive uses of forests, both logging and agriculture, remain higher than returns from non-timber products. This research demonstrates that although non-timber forest products are an important livelihood source, market integration and commercialization is not everywhere an appropriate or realistic strategy.


Latin America Peru forests protected areas non-timber forest products incomes 



Financial support from the Biodiversity Centre of the University of Turku, Finland for the fieldwork upon which this paper is based is gratefully acknowledged. We also wish to thank the Peruvian Amazonian Research Institute (IIAP) for their support, and particularly to Lizardo Fachin for providing us with a map of the reserve. Further acknowledgments go to the School of Development Studies and the Centre for Social and Environmental Research for the Global Environment at the University of East Anglia, Norwich. The views expressed in this paper do not necessarily reflect those of the institutions that supported this research effort.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Finnish Environment InstituteResearch Programme for Environmental PolicyHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.School of Development StudiesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK
  3. 3.School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK

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