| The Fragile Tropics of Latin America: Sustainable Management of Changing Environments (1995) |
|Part 3 : The Peruvian Amazon|
|Subsistence- and market-oriented agroforestry in the Peruvian Amazon|
5 Conclusions and recommendations
We have presented descriptions of agroforestry practices found in two communities in the Peruvian Amazon. One of our sample villages is inhabited by members of a tribal group, the other is a settlement of non-tribal, but none the less largely indigenous Amazonians known as ribereños The Tamshiyacu and the Bora systems show some obvious similarities; ribereño practices should quite clearly be considered a transformation and adaptation of indigenous tribal patterns. However, the two systems described differ dramatically as well. In Tamshiyacu, production in older fields becomes highly specialized reflecting the relatively easy access the town's farmers have to the Iquitos market. Brillo Nuevo farmers, on the other hand, do not have the same market opportunities. Their system is much more generalized, diverse in species, and successful in satisfying the many needs of farmers in an area far from markets.
The differences in species composition and production between the two Amazonian settlements largely reflect differences in management. Tamshiyacu orchards are managed more intensively over a longer period, while Bora farmers allow, even encourage, more forest vegetation in their ageing fallows.
While the choice to specialize does help Tamshiyacu farmers frequently to earn high incomes, it also has drawbacks. In years of particularly high umarí production throughout the Iquitos region, a considerable part of the harvest cannot be sold and farmers are not adequately compensated for their labour investments. To date, no suitable process for preserving the bland, oily pulp of the umarí fruit has been developed and all fruit must be consumed fresh.
We have noted that the two descriptions given here are not an exhaustive summary of agroforestry types found in the lowland Peruvian Amazon. Our research indicates that agroforestry systems in the Peruvian Amazon are widespread and greatly varied (see Padoch and de Jong, 1987). There is no one Amazonian agroforestry system. Local patterns of swidden-fallow agroforestry are highly flexible, adaptable to various environmental and economic conditions. The examples that we have presented are also highly dynamic. Active experimentation occurs in both communities, as farmers attempt to accommodate their agroforestry practices to changing environmental and economic conditions.
In focusing much of our discussion on the market-oriented system of Tamshiyacu, we would particularly like to emphasize the need to study the traditional systems of non-tribal communities. These forgotten villages of the Peruvian Amazon (and of other Amazonian states) often present useful models to resource use planners. Yet it is the remote, tribal communities that have been given more attention. Most ribereños or mestizos living within a day's travel of Iquitos participate more actively in market trade than do natives on small isolated tributaries. Rather than using such tribal systems as models, and speculating on how these might serve the Amazonian who is heading toward increased market involvement, ribereño patterns may offer a more accessible model.
Our investigations in the Iquitos area have pointed out the great importance of market access and market demand in determining the configuration of a particular agroforestry system. The example taken from Tamshiyacu demonstrates conclusively that swiddeners can and do respond strongly to market opportunities. However, the market of Iquitos, like many tropical regional markets, is limited and often cannot consume even the yields that are produced. Research and extension in agroforestry systems must be accompanied by sound economic knowledge and advice. If the small farmers of Iquitos and similar regions elsewhere are to be encouraged to augment their production of fruits and other agroforestry products, they must also be presented with opportunities for processing and extraregional export of those products.