The overall goal of the Center is to promote conservation and development that will sustain diverse human and other biological communities in the Amazon region. We specifically wish to improve the understanding of Amazon ecology, help strengthen the region’s traditional communities, and educate the public about key Amazon environmental concerns. Our programs will focus primarily on researching the ecology, and promoting the sustainable harvest and marketing of non-timber forest products (NTFPs).
Indigenous and other traditional people collect thousands of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) for food, medicine, construction, and other purposes. These products include fruits, fibers, resins, oils and a variety of animal products. Forest people use many NTFPs in their daily lives and sell some to buy goods not available in the forest. Helping communities to sustainably harvest and sometimes market NTFPs can, therefore, help enhance their cultural traditions, local economy and forest conservation. Supporting peoples’ intimate knowledge and use of plants for traditional medicines reinforces the connection between healthy forests and a community’s well-being. People who can harvest fruit, fish and game meat are less likely to burn forest to raise cattle or cash crops to buy other foods from the city. People can sell NTFPs as one way to buy basic necessities and help local development projects. Self-sufficient communities are better able to resist accepting outside proposals that bring in short-term cash at the expense of their environment.
There are ecological and other challenges to sustainably and profitably havesting NTFPs. Growing communities can easily overharvest NTPFs that commonly used in their daily lives or collected for commercial purposes. It is also not easy to make a good profit harvesting and selling NTFPs. It may be too difficult or expensive for remote communities to send some products to market. Harvesters that sell raw or slightly processed NTFPs receive very little money for their products.
The Center will help forest-based communities in the Amazon address these and related challenges through three main program areas: Research, Community Support, and Education and Outreach. Research projects will investigate the ecological, social, and economic aspects of culturally and commercially important NTFPs in the Amazon region. Community Support projects will help partner communities develop specific management and marketing programs for NTFPs and provide support for other local development projects. Education and Outreach programs will publicize current Amazon ecology and community issues, create partnerships with Amazon community groups, and enlist public support for Center programs and goals.