Student Summer Scholars


chambira palm, rainforest






We proposed to research the use of chambira palm fibers and the sale of chambira crafts in four communities located about 100 miles from the city of Iquitos, Peru. In this part of the Peruvian Amazon, women are organized into groups that work to obtain the fibers and sell their products in a sustainable way, and at the same time promote the cultivation of the palm trees in their family gardens. As is the case with so many products from tropical forests, there is great geographic variation in the abundance of the resource (chambira) and variation in the amount of income that local residents (in this case women) actually receive from their products (Neumann and Hirsch 2000, Coomes 2004, Penn 2008). This research was conducted along the Tahuayo and Blanco rivers that enter a large community reserve in Peru, the 420,000 hectare Area de Conservación Comunal Regional Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo (ACRCTT). This reserve has been locally managed with an emphasis on conserving forest resources such as chambira because they are so important to the local economy and ecology (Bodmer et al. 1997). Before leaving for Peru, we conducted additional library research on chambira, non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and the socioeconomic and environmental characteristics of the western Amazon region where we our study was conducted. This study was submitted to HRBNet (project 124064-1) and approved by the Grand Valley State University Human Research Review Committee (reference number 10-01-H). Once in the field, with the help of very capable Peruvian assistants we were able to visit five communities (Esperanza, Buena Vista, Chino, San Pedro, Diamante Azul) and cover a larger area than we had originally planned to study. Travel was by foot or boat, and we stayed most nights in a field station owed by the Rainforest Conservation Fund (RCF) in the village of Chino, on the Tahuayo River. The Rainforest Conservation Fund is a Chicago-based conservation organization that hires Peruvians to work on conservation projects in the Peruvian Amazon.