The Amazon Várzea

pp 259-273


Participatory Conservation and Local Knowledge in the Amazon Várzea: The Pirarucu Management Scheme in Mamirauá

  • Leandro CastelloAffiliated withCollege of Environmental Science and Forestry, State University of New YorkInstituto de Desenvolvimento Sustentável MamirauáThe Woods Hole Research Center Email author 
  • , João Paulo VianaAffiliated withInstituto de Desenvolvimento Sustentável MamirauáDiretoria do Programa Nacional de Conservação da Biodiversidade, Ministério do Meio Ambiente
  • , Miguel Pinedo-VasquezAffiliated withCenter for Environmental Research and Conservation, Columbia University

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Participatory natural resource management has become the most used approach to the conservation of the Amazonian várzea. But poor understanding of the process of integration of local knowledge in such conservation schemes impedes further progress. We contribute to this subject by analyzing some of the challenges of one of the most significant schemes of participatory conservation based on local knowledge in the várzea. The scheme relies largely on the knowledge and skills of local fishers, and it has been shown to be very effective at promoting the recovery of previously overexploited populations of the fish pirarucu (Arapaima spp). Our analysis shows that the prevailing practice of simply including local communities in the management process is not sufficient to promote resource conservation. It also is necessary to (i) identify individuals of the communities that possess acute knowledge of natural resources, (ii) develop cost-effective approaches to assess local knowledge in a systematic fashion, and (iii) monitor the effectiveness of participatory schemes at promoting resource conservation. We suggest that conservation and development organizations need to develop further their current practices with the knowledge of local inhabitants, if that knowledge is to contribute further to the conservation of the várzea.


Local knowledge Participatory conservation Resource management Overexploitation Sustainable development reserves Livelihoods