Community botany in the Amazon
The Amazon Association (Associação Amazônia) was founded in 1992 with the objectives of preserving biological and cultural diversity and promoting sustainable development in the Brazilian Amazon. Its first action was the establishment of a protected area on the rivers in the Lower Rio Branco-Rio Jauaperì region, achieved by buying the rights to occupation of the land from the local inhabitants and incorporating them into the Association.
The Reserva Popular Xixuaú-Xipariná (172,460 ha) is situated on the Xixuau and Xiparina rivers in the state of Roraima, approximately 500km to the northwest of Manaus. At present the reserve, which supports 22 families, has yet to be officially ratified under federal law. However, it forms part of the proposed Lower Rio Branco Rio Jauaperi Extractivist Reserve (RESEX) which is awaiting final ratification in Brasília. This reserve, which if approved will total over 600,000 hectares (principally made up of undisturbed terra firme and seasonally flooded forest), is currently home to about 900 people.
Project aims and objectives
The project aims to promote sustainable livelihoods and long-term conservation of forest biodiversity and ecosystem services on the lower Rio Jauaperi. Specifically, it aims to develop the knowledge, information resources and skills necessary for the local communities to manage their resources in a sustainable manner, to engage in biodiversity research within their own land, and to identify and develop opportunities for generating realistic levels of income from their natural resources.
This will be achieved through a programme of activities involving researchers from the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (Manaus), the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (UK) and local universities, in collaboration with the Amazon Association. These will include members of the communities of the lower Jauaperi including older, more experienced and knowledgeable individuals as well as younger trainees of both sexes, in order to ensure maximum integration of local knowledge and to increase the likelihood of long-term uptake.
Training and capacity-building will play a fundamental role in the project, the objective being to help empower local communities to investigate and husband their own resources whilst contributing to the advancement of scientific knowledge of an important and poorly known part of the Brazilian Amazon.
Whilst the training component will be vital for ensuring project sustainability, it will also be necessary to provide the tools and the economic incentives for continuation beyond the lifespan of the project. Appropriately user-friendly plant identification and information resources, including information on the economic uses of plants, will be developed during the project in collaboration with community members.
This project is still in its early stages. Three preliminary survey and collecting visits were undertaken in 2010. During the third visit, training in plant collecting and specimen preparation was given to volunteers in the Xixuaú community. One young trainee was then brought to Manaus for more intensive field and herbarium orientation.
During 2011 three further field/training trips were made by students from INPA, and two ethnobotanical MSc thesis projects have been approved. These are due to begin fieldwork in 2012, contributing to the ongoing inventory of the vegetation and towards a better understanding of sustainable use of resources in the area.
Project partners and collaborators
Amazon Charitable Trust
Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (INPA)
Amazon Charitable Trust