This article reports on domestication as a simple way to promote plant conservation in indigenous villages. We developed simple methods to germinate or transplant palm species central to the traditional livelihood of two Panamanian nations: the Emberá and the Wounaan. The target species were Astrocaryum standleyanum, Sabal mauritiiformis and Socratea exorrhiza. The youngest fully expanded leaf of Astrocaryum provides prime material for weaving baskets that are a major source of income for the Emberá and Wounaan communities of Panamá. Sabal and Socratea are the two most important species for traditional architecture. They provide, respectively, the roofs and floor of the round, open-sided Emberá–Wounaan houses. For each of the three target species, different treatments were tested to obtain germination rates as high as possible. Regardless of the treatments to which seeds were subjected, germination of Astrocaryum was difficult and slow. It took 13 months to break dormancy and the germination success was around 40%. However, the two other species, especially Socratea, were easy to germinate. Our project succeeded in introducing the practice of nursery and cultivation in over 20 indigenous villages of Panamá. It is hoped that such forestry approaches to conservation can help protect important components of biodiversity while giving access to the resource to people whose lifestyle depends on them.
Astrocaryum standleyanumGermination Indigenous people Panamá Sabal mauritiiformisSocratea exorrhizaTropical conservation