Community Support Projects

One of the best strategies for conserving the Amazon forest is to strengthen communities at the front-lines of deforestation and unsustainable development pressures. Communities that meet their needs for food, shelter, health, education, pride in their culture and respectful relations with others will be better able to use their forest resources wisely and defend them against outside pressures than communities stressed by poverty and a sense of powerlessness.

The goal of Center Community Support Projects is to help Amazon forest-based communities sustain forest resources and traditional culture and promote locally based sustainable development. The Center will work in partnership with community associations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other groups to achieve this goal. As with our Research Projects, our main goal will be to assist communities develop the sustainable use and benefits of non-timber forest products (NTFPs).

Natural resource management projects will aim to improve the management of an NTFP that is a key subsistence or commercial resource. One approach will be to work with a community to develop a sustainable harvesting plan for a heavily used product. Another tactic will be to increase the abundance of important NTFPs through planting or enhancing natural regeneration. A third option would be to find and develop a viable substitute for a threatened one. These projects will often be closely linked to Center Research projects.

Examples of natural resource management projects in the works or under consideration are:

1) Work with communities to develop plans for the sustainable harvest of copal/breu resin (used for incense and boat caulking), tamshi/titica aroid root vines (used for house construction material and making wicker furniture), and palmiche/ubim palm leaves (used for roof thatch).

2) Use ethnobotanical and ecological approaches with a community to reforest degraded areas with a sequential mixture of trees and other plants. These plants would be ones that are used by people in their daily lives, are collected for commercial purposes, attract game animals or would accelerate regeneration of a diverse forest.

Income support projects will be designed to help families or whole communities increase local income. Most of these projects will focus on supporting the marketing of sustainably harvested NTFPs. These products may be individual resins, oils, or fruits or more complex items like handicrafts made from various sources. The main strategy for this type of project will be to assist communities develop and market “value-added” products that can sell for more than unprocessed products.

Examples of local income projects in the works or under consideration are:

1) Help partner communities to market handicrafts made from sustainably harvested NTFPs. The Center is currently selling jewelry (necklaces, bracelets and earrings) made from tucumã and inajá palm nuts by the Tembé Indians of Brazil and various handicrafts (seed based jewelry, net bags and fans made from chimbira palm stems) made mostly by women in Jenaro Herrera, Peru.  These are currently offered at Presentations and will be sold through this site's Amazon Forest Store.

2) Develop a simple technique for producing and marketing an attractive incense and scented candle from copal resin.

The Center wishes to support appropriate health, infrastructure, culture and education projects in partner communities, but it will usually not undertake these projects directly except where they connect with Center natural resource or income project. The Center will, however, support these activities through agreements with some of our partner communities. Typically, in cases where the Center sells handicrafts or another forest product from one of our partners, the Center will return part of the proceeds (usually 10-20%) to the community in line with our procedures for supporting local projects.