Revisiting Bora fallow agroforestry in the Peruvian Amazon: Enriching ethnobotanical appraisals of non-timber products through household income quantification

Abstract

Indigenous fallow agroforestry systems play an important role in Amazonian livelihoods by providing food security, cash income, and overall risk mitigation. However, the substantial contribution of fruits, construction materials, handicraft inputs, and myriad other fallow products are not only ignored in many national statistics, they have received little attention from policy makers to date. This study estimates the economic importance and perceived household utility of species in managed indigenous (Bora) fallows using a combination of income data for all harvested products, fallow inventory observations, and free list data. The research represents an important follow-up to Denevan and Padoch’s approximately thirty-year old qualitative description of Bora fallow management in the same area. Results highlight the importance of agroforestry environments (primarily fallows) for providing well over 100 non-timber resources for easily accessed medicines, essential vitamins and nutrients, and cash-generating products such as handicraft materials. Crop staples and promoted native forest species each contribute 14 % of household income and other miscellaneous crops contribute an additional 6 %, for a total income share of 34 %. Chambira (Astrocaryum chambira) handicrafts alone contribute 16 % of household cash income (9 % of total income) in surveyed villages. When considering cash and subsistence importance, plant products harvested from agroforestry environments contribute more than double the income of those from unmanaged forests. Agroforestry can also safeguard biodiversity and ecosystem services while promoting climate change resilience. Study results will enhance research and development initiatives which typically focus on forests or agriculture, but less often on intermediate, managed environments in Amazonian forests.

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Acknowledgments

The research would not have been possible without the generous contributions of the Bora residents, and field assistants Zoila Rios Paredes, and Valeria Saldaña. Field work and plant identification were also greatly facilitated by botanist César Grandez and ecologist Carlos Darwin Angulo Villacorta. An earlier version of this paper was discussed at the 54th annual Society for Economic Botany Conference (Plymouth, UK, 2013). The paper benefited from the valuable comments and suggestions of William Denevan, Christine Padoch, Victoria Reyes-García, Campbell Plowden, Anja Byg, Ida Theilade, and two anonymous reviewers. Research was carried out in collaboration with the PALMS project funded by the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Union. Fieldwork was supported by Oticon Fonden and Stiftelsen Løvstrupgaard Advokathuset, Denmark. Permission to include photos of residents is gratefully acknowledged.

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Cotta, J.N. Revisiting Bora fallow agroforestry in the Peruvian Amazon: Enriching ethnobotanical appraisals of non-timber products through household income quantification. Agroforest Syst 91, 17–36 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10457-016-9892-4

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Keywords

  • Indigenous fallow management
  • Household income
  • Food security
  • Handicrafts
  • Livelihoods