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2 Study area and objectives

During the summer of 1989, we conducted a study of forest resource management in the village of San Rafael, located two hours down the Amazon River from the city of Iquitos (figure 10.1). The village is one of many ribereño communities situated on the terra firme banks of the Amazon and its tributaries. In addition to the extraction of forest products, other important economic activities within the community include agriculture, fishing, hunting, temporary work in the cities, and the market exchange of cash and products both in the city and within the community itself. In the region generally, rural inhabitants depend on a wide range of extractive and productive economic activities (San Roman, 1975; Hiraoka, 1985; Padoch, 1987).

In our study we examined different forest uses within the community as well as other human activities and their impacts on the sustainability of forest resource use. In particular, we addressed the following questions: (i) What forest types are present in the area? (ii) What products do members of the community extract from those forest types? (iii) How abundant are the economic resources of the forests? (iv) Are forest resources sustainably managed, or overexploited? (v) How does the community attempt to control the extraction and use of forest resources?

Figure 10.1 Area of study, San Rafael, Iquitos, Peru.

To answer these questions, we conducted questionnaires and personal interviews in each household in the community. We were aided by two local teachers. Additionally, we conducted a forest inventory, gathering information on the quantity, distribution, and uses of over two hundred tree species. The complete results of an ethnobotanical inventory are reported elsewhere (Pinedo-Vasquez et al., 1990).

3 Population dynamics

The population of San Rafael is descended from three indigenous groups: Cocama, Napo Quichua, and Lamista Quichua. A demographic census which we conducted in the community revealed that people from San Rafael continually move between the community and the city of Iquitos. Due to this constant migration, the total population in the community fluctuates throughout the year. The population of San Rafael is therefore divided into two groups: the permanent population, and the mobile population. The permanent population consists mostly of children and old people. The most mobile segment of the population are young people between the ages of 15 and 25.

During 1989 there were 333 permanent residents of San Rafael and a mobile population of an additional 124 (figure 10.2). Children ( < 15 years) constitute the largest segment (53 per cent) of the total population both in San Rafael and in other rural communities throughout the region Ministério de Educación, 1986). The number of permanent residents between the ages of 15 and 25 is quite low, and the female population between the ages of 15 and 19 is extremely small. Many of these young women reside in Iquitos and make a living at domestic work. Thirtyone children (18% of the under-15 population) are being raised by their grandparents; these are the offspring of single mothers working and living in Iquitos. Similar results have been reported for other communities in the region (Chaumeil, 1984). The instability of rural populations, in particular the absence of young adults within the rural communities, is indicative of a lack of rural economic opportunities.

Figure 10.2 Population pyramid, San Rafael, July 1989.

4 Distribution and use of terra firme lands in the community

With the exception of a narrow floodplain facing the Amazon River, San Rafael is located entirely on upland, terra firme, deposits. On the terra firme, lands are divided into three categories according to type and intensity of use: chacras, purmas, and monte alto. Chacras are swidden fields, generally planted with a succession of four crops: upland rice (Oryza saliva), cassava (Manihot esculenta), plantain, and banana (Musa paradisiaca). Prices for rice are set by the government, and credit is available for the production of all four crops (Chibnik, 1986; Hiraoka, 1988). The term purma includes a wide range of fallowed fields, from recently overgrown chacras to thirtyyear-old successional forest. Monte alto are areas of older, intact forest. The use and distribution of land between the three categories is outlined in table 10.1.

An estimated 100.6 ha of agricultural fields (chacras) were planted and harvested in the community from January to July 1989, an average of 1.8 ha per household. The agricultural produce of San Rafael is either consumed locally or sold in the Iquitos markets (table 10.2).

Table 10.1 Land distribution by household in San Rafael. Iouitos. Julv 1989

  Monte alto purmas field
Total 303 ha 612 ha 100.6 ha
Total households 20 37 55.0
Average has/household 14.85 ha 16.54 ha 1.8 ha
% total household owned 38.1% 67.3% 100%
Total population: 333  
Total land distribution by household: 1015.6 ha.

Table 10.2 Production of four crops in San Rafael, Iquitos, July 1989

Crops hectares planted(ha) harvested(ha) production consumed sold
Rice 16.3 11.3 5.0 12,600 kg 1,900 kg 10,700 k
Cassava 36.8 12.0 24.8 98,700 kg 62,900 kg 35,800 k
Plantain 34.0 21.5 12.5 5,970 r 1,905 r 4,065 r
Banana 13.5 11.0 2.5 250 r 110 r 140 r
Total 100.6 55.8 44.8 - - -

r = racemes

Rice is primarily sold in Iquitos. From a total of 12,600 kg of rice harvested between January and July 1989, only 1,900 kg (15 per cent) were consumed locally; the remainder was sold to government rice centres in Iquitos. Most of the plantain and banana grown in San Rafael is also marketed rather than consumed locally. Cassava, however, is primarily a subsistence crop; 63.7 per cent (98,700 kg) of the cassava produced between January and June 1989 was consumed locally. Per capita consumption of cassava, if we use the permanent population figure, is equal to about 1.6 kg per day.

Purmas cover a total area of 612 ha in San Rafael, representing 58.5 per cent of the total land area claimed by members of the community. Purmas are distributed among 37 households in the community. Recent arrivals in the community and the households of young couples generally do not claim purmas. Family and fictive kinship networks, however, often permit members access to their purmas. Fruits and construction materials are the most common economic products of purmas in San Rafael. With few exceptions these are used locally and do not enter into the market economy.

Elsewhere in the region, the management of fallows for marketed products is much more intensive than in San Rafael. In the town of Tamshiyacu, for example, Padoch et al. (1985) and Hiraoka (1986) have documented exceptional production of fallow products, principally a fruit called umarí (Poraqueiba sericea), for the Iquitos market. Padoch (1987) has also demonstrated the variability in resource use patterns both between and within ribereño villages, providing a good caveat for extrapolating results from one site to the entire region.

Historically, monte alto has belonged to the community as a whole. Retaining communal rights to non-agricultural land is an indigenous tradition in the region (Chaumeil, 1984). This tradition is recognized in Peru by the Ley de Comunidades Nativas y de Desarrollo Agrario de lasRegiones de Selva y Ceja de Selva, decreed by the government in 1973, which recognized the rights to land and resource tenure of tribal peoples. Non-tribal villages, including the hundreds of ribereño communities in the lowland Peruvian Amazon, are not extended rights of ownership to land or resources. Nonetheless, in 1984, an area of about 800 ha adjacent to the village of San Rafael was designated a forest reserve by the members of the community. The establishment of a reserve in San Rafael originated from a need to protect forest resources in monte alto from the extractive activities of outsiders, mainly timber companies. The formalization of the reserve in a communal assembly thus asserts a traditional regulatory mechanism as a response to a new necessity to protect forest resources from outside depredation. The extraction of forest resources from the reserve is regulated by written communal rules, although legal control of the land remains under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agriculture. Resources present in the reserve include latex, resins, fruits, medicinal products, timber, roundwood, and other construction materials.

In 1986, about 300 ha of monte alto was distributed among twenty heads of households in the oldest and largest families of the community. Land distribution was accomplished at a communal meeting which included representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and the regional authorities. Each family received a temporary certificado de posesión which can be used as collateral for agricultural loans at the agrarian bank. Most of the families have requested loans for rice production. The distributed land is located along a path from an adjacent community on the Mazan River to San Rafael, on the Amazon River.

5 Traditional use of forest resources

Forest resources are utilized both for subsistence and for access to markets in Iquitos. Certain products are collected primarily from purmas, others from monte alto; many products are found in both land types. Because purmas are located closer to chacras and to village households, the intensity of forest product collection is greater there than it is in monte alto. Additionally, varying degrees of cultivation of useful species occur in purmas.

Both purmas and monte alto contribute roundwood and other building materials for house construction. For instance, 52 of the 55 households in San Rafael use palm leaves as roofing material. The frames of houses in the community are built entirely of locally extracted roundwood. Floors and walls are often constructed using both local materials and sawn lumber. The roundwood species and other building materials extracted from purmas (table 10.3) differ from those extracted from monte alto (table 10.4).

Table 10.3 Species of roundwood (R) and other construction materials (Com) collected from purmas in San Rafael, Iquitos, July 1989

No. Common name Scientific name Family R Com
1 Atadijo Helicteres pentandra Sterculiaceae x x
2 Shapaja Scheelea cephalotes Palmae   x
3 Bombonaje Carludovica palmata Palmae   x
4 Purma caspi     x  
5 Yarina Phytelephas microcarpa Palmae   x
6 Ocuera Pollesta discolor   x  
7 Pichirina Vismia brasilensis Clusiaceae x  
8 Capirona Capirona decorticans Rubiaceae x  
9 Huacapu Lindackeria paludosa Flacourtiaceae x  
10 Cashapona Iriartea exorrhiza Palmae   x
11 Huacrapona Socratea deltoidea Palmae   x
12 Topa Ochroma lagopus Bombacaceae x  
13 Soldado caspi Chimarrhis glabriflora Rubiaceae x  

Species of roundwood and other construction materials generally are not planted in purmas. However, people in the community tend to protect them. For instance, when people clean their fields they usually leave and protect the seedlings of useful tree species. In contrast, useful species in monte alto are not cultivated to any degree. As a result, some of the monte alto species are overexploited. A high market value in Iquitos for a forest species generally leads to its overexploitation. Two such roundwood species are extremely rare at present: huacapu (Lindackeria paludos) and tortuga caspi (Duguetia lucida). Similarly, chuchuhuasha (Heisteria pallida), a medicinal species now widely favoured as an alcohol extract, is quite scarce. These are all slow-growing species, and regeneration in the forest appears to be absent.

Fruit species are also collected from both monte alto and purmas. The number of fruit species collected from monte alto (table 10.5) is greater than that collected from purmas (table 10.6). However, owing to the greater density of fruit-bearing tree species in the more accessible purmas, extraction of fruits from there is more intensive than from monte alto. Nonetheless, two fruit species from monte alto with high value in Iquitos and in the community appear to be overexploited: ungurahui (Jessenia batua) and meto huayo (Loretoa spp.). Fortunately, these two species can be regenerated in both monte alto and in purmas. In fact, many people from the community have already planted them in their fields and fallows.

Table 10.4 Species of roundwood and other construction materials collected from monte alto in San Rafael. Iquitos, July 1989

No. Common name Scientific name Family R Com
1 Huacrapona Socratea deltoides Palmae   x
2 Quinilla blanca Franchetella gongrijpee Sapotaceae x  
3 Carahuasca negra Guatteria decurren Annonacae   x
4 Yarina Phytelephas macrocarpa Palmae   x  
5 Quinilla colorada Pouteria laciocarpa Sapotaceae x  
6 Carahuasca blanca Guatteria elata Annonaceae x  
7 Puca shimbillo Inga sp. Mimosaceae x  
8 Espintana negra Xylopia sp. Annonaceae x  
9 Remocaspi Aspidosperma excelsum Apocynaceae x  
10 Vara blanca Unonopsis stipitata Annonaceae x  
11 Espintana blanca Xylopia conjugens Annonaceae x  
12 Yutubanco Heisteria sp. Olacaceae x  
13 Tortuga caspi Duguetia lucida Annonaceae x  
14 Cashapona Iriathea exorriza Palmae   x
15 Vino huayo Cocoloba sp. Polygonaceae x  
16 Shapaja Sheelea cephalotes Palmae   x
17 Yanavara Trema sp. Ulmaceae x  
18 Pinsha cello Xylopia aromatica Annonaceae x  
19 Rifari Miconia aurea Melasstomataceae x  
20 Huacapu Lindackeria paludosa Flacourtaceae x  
21 Quillosica Cassia sp. Caesalpinaceae x  
22 Tahuari blanco Tabebuia capitata Bignoniaceae x  
23 Chontaquiro Unonopsis peruviana Annonaceae x  
24 Estoraque Psychotria sp. Rubiaceae x  
25 Rifari blanco Miconia aulocalyx Melastomataceae x  
26 Espintana colorada Xylopia cuspidata Annonaceae   x  
27 Acero caspi Cassia sp. Caesalpinaceae x  
28 Aceite caspi Annonaceae   x  
29 Lanza caspi Flusaea longifolia Annonaceae x  
30 Quinilla amarilla Pouteria sp. Sapotaceae x  
31 Vara negra Guatteria sp. Annonaceae x  
32 Paliperro Tabebuia sp. Bignoniaceae x  
33 Quinilla Pouteria rufonervia Sapotaceae x  


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