For my PhD research I researched the influence of forest governance institutions on the practices of small farmers in the Amazon. I conducted my research in Bolivia and Ecuador with additional research in Peru and Brazil.
In Bolivia I focused my research on 3 communities relatively near to the town of Riberalta. In these communities, forestry is one of the sources of income. The main income comes from the harvesting of Brazil nut, also known as castana. The harvest season is an important time of the year as the income that comes from this is in most instances the most important income of the year.
In Ecuador, the communities I researched were both indigenous communities and so-called migrant communities. Indigenous communities were very independent large ethnic groups living in the rainforest. These communities found itself on the edge, or tipping point, of modernization. The younger generation embraced the ‘city lifestyle’, including cell phones, DVDs, and a the common staple diet consisting of rice. Their parents still found themselves stuck in their traditions. Small scaled logging was their most important source of income. And because of the changes from traditional to a more modern society, more and more timber needs to be cut to meet the new needs, the education fees and at the same time, traditions. The migrant communities know a different history. Moving from the Andes to the Amazon in the late 80s, many of these cattle farmers have adopted a diverse livelihood system that is based on cattle, forestry, agriculture and, in one case, the collection of palm leaves for fibre. Cattle farming proved to be difficult in this part of the Amazon and migrants needed to find other sources of income to make a living.
In both communities, forest and timber was important. What was even more important was the flexibility of the product. If needed, a tree was cut. The Ecuadorian regulation on forestry proved to be too strict for both type of communities. As a result, they started to invent and circumvent ways to deal with this that included a lot of creative solutions but did not result in communities following the law.
Forest management by small farmers in the Amazon – an opportunity to enhance forest ecosystem stability and rural livelihoods – ForLive is a research consortium of nine South American and European universities and NGOs in partnership with smallholders and communities from Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador and Peru. ForLive is to identi es locally viable options for forest use contributing to local livelihoods and to de ne possibilities to promote these as a basis for sustainable development in rural areas of the Amazon. ForLive identified nearly 150 promising cases of CF management initiatives, from which a total of sixteen cases have been selected as a basis for more intensive research with the direct involvement of small farmers and the communities.