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Non-Clinical Medicine - Science Policy

The Effects of Processing Non-Timber Forest Products and Trade Partnerships on People's Well-Being and Forest Conservation in Amazonian Societies
Published: Friday, August 17, 2012
Author: Carla Morsello et al.

by Carla Morsello, Isabel Ruiz-Mallén, Maria Dolores Montoya Diaz, Victoria Reyes-García

This study evaluated whether processing non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and establishing trade partnerships between forest communities and companies enhance the outcomes of NTFP commercialization. In particular, we evaluated whether product processing, partnerships, or their combination was associated with a number of outcomes related to the well-being of forest inhabitants and forest conservation. We based our analyses on ethnographic and quantitative data (i.e., survey and systematic observations) gathered at seven communities from five societies of the Brazilian and Bolivian Amazon. Our results indicated that product processing and partnerships do not represent a silver bullet able to improve the results of NTFP commercialization in terms of well-being and conservation indicators. Compared with cases without interventions, households adopting partnerships but not product processing were most often associated with improved economic proxies of well-being (total income, NTFP income, food consumption and gender equality in income). In comparison, the combination of product processing and partnerships was associated with similar outcomes. Unexpectedly, product processing alone was associated with negative outcomes in the economic indicators of well-being. All of the investigated strategies were associated with less time spent in social and cultural activities. With respect to forest conservation, the strategies that included a partnership with or without processing produced similar results: while household deforestation tended to decrease, the hunting impact increased. Processing alone was also associated with higher levels of hunting, though it did not reduce deforestation. Our results indicate that establishing partnerships may enhance the outcomes of NTFP trade in terms of the financial outcomes of local communities, but practitioners need to use caution when adopting the processing strategy and they need to evaluate potential negative results for indicators of social and cultural activities. With respect to conservation, the three strategies are promising for reducing deforestation, but more pervasive impacts, such as hunting, might increase.