MAIN ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES
The economy of the Amazon North revolves, fundamentally, around the resources of the forest; First of all the collection and the benefit of the chestnut. Second is It finds timber logging, mostly from a total of 21 forest concessions, complemented with wood from illegal sources. Especially in the Cobija area of influence, there is also a growing importance of livestock (North Corridor 2006). Also subsistence farming, hunting and fishing are parts fundamentals of livelihoods in rural and indigenous communities in the area rural (Vos et al. in preparation). A summary description of the main activities is given in the following paragraphs productive of the region.
Since the 80s, after the final fall of the rubber market (Hevea brasiliensis), the chestnut has gradually taken the position of the main product of the region. The value of chestnut exports grew from US $ 3 million in 1985 to US $ 30 million between the years 1996 – 1997, a level that has remained more or less stable since then.
In 2005, a total amount of shellless almonds of 16.67 thousand tons was exported with a total value of US $ 69.93 million. In this way the chestnut has come to mean about 70% of regional income and about 1.4% of the national BIP (Data Superintendence of Forestry 2006). For the Amazon region of the country, the chestnut has obtained a fundamental position in the regional economy, generating 70% of its income. Bojanic (2001a) estimates that 45% of the region’s labor potential receives direct or indirect employment from the chestnut industry, and numbers of up to 70% have been mentioned for the city of Riberalta where most of the transformer plants are located in which large numbers of people, mostly women, are dedicated to peeling and roasting almonds and getting ready for export.
It should be noted that the distribution of financial benefits is not equitable, with an average annual income of about US $ 60,000 for the owners of the beneficiaries, and between US $ 520 and 360 perceived by the sapphires and community members respectively. Likewise, the bad working conditions and the dependency relationship linked to the habilitation have received strong criticism, with the identification of a debt bondage.
Currently the main accessible chestnut areas are in the hands of the boatmen, and to a lesser extent inside the forest concessions. But also the areas occupied by the peasant and indigenous communities constitute an important area for chestnut harvesting. In addition, it is important to consider that many peasants and indigenous people, during the harvest season, complement the chestnut harvest in their own area, with work as a sapphire in other parts of the region, temporarily leaving their communities.
Livestock production in the Amazon region is mainly based on beef cattle.
In Pando it can barely cover the local market (CIPCA under development). In the Ten Cow Province it is estimated that it covers 25% of the demand (com. Pers. Sonnenschein). In Pando there are 230 small livestock establishments (from 1 to 100 heads), 90 medium (101 to 500 heads) and 22 large (more than 500 heads), with an average of 180 heads per property (CIPCA under development).
The Livestock Association of Riberalta managed another classification indicating that of the 65 members, 5% have more than 5000 heads, 15% manage less than 500 heads and the rest (80%) have a number of head of cattle between 500 and 5000. In total it includes a total of 22,860 heads in the municipality of Riberalta and another 30,000 heads in the Yucuma and Ballivián provinces (HAMR under development).
Most of the owners of the stays in these last two provinces reside in Riberalta and often have relatively small areas around this city for final fattening and to avoid transport problems in the rainy season.
Especially in the Vaca Diez de Beni Province and the Nicolás Suárez de Pando Province, a rapid growth of livestock can be observed, and consequently an increase in deforestation levels (Corredor Norte 2006). Although in this sense an approach to cattle ranching can still be verified, in recent years the interests of the sector have increased to intensify its production towards a higher yield per hectare.
However, to date there are only two cabins in the municipality of Riberalta that perform genetic improvement with artificial insemination. For dairy there are advances in the use of supplementary foods, based on corn bran, almond cake and cane bagasse.
Other farmers bring molasses and soy husks from Santa Cruz. The association of farmers of Riberalta indicates a production of approximately 1000 liters of milk per day, with an unsatisfied demand and a fairly informal commercialization, for lack of a milk processing plant in the region.
Agriculture in the region is mainly a small-scale production by rural and indigenous families. Among the most cultivated products are rice, cassava, bananas and corn. In general, more than half of the production is destined for family consumption, surpluses of production being commercialized in the markets of the main cities of the region. It is a production of rose, grave and burning, with minimal investments in modern technologies.
Biofuels are being promoted as a less harmful source of energy for the climate and, worldwide, investors are turning their attention to this sector. Now there is still soy and sugar cane for biodiesel production, but there are several initiatives to promote palm tree species for the production of oils as bases for biodiesel.
Especially in Brazil and Peru, palm plantations such as oil palm and pupuña are being implemented with good expectations in terms of production, which implies access to foreign investment. However, the implementation of the plantations has generated several conflicts with local people over land tenure, and in consideration of the negative environmental impacts of this type of plantation. In countries of South-East Asia such as Indonesia and Malaysia, palm plantations for the production of biodiesel oil have generated similar disastrous effects such as soybeans and cane in Brazil.
Considering these negative impacts, many actors in the northern Amazon region of Bolivia have expressed concern about the implementation of monoculture farming in the region. They often argue that the soils of the Amazon are not suitable for mechanized agriculture. However, there are some promising experiences with the recovery of degraded areas using machinery that require further analysis to make a more serious evaluation of the feasibility and possible negative impacts of this type of agriculture.
Hunting and fishing
Hunting and fishing activities are mainly carried out with a focus on satisfying family demand. Especially for families in rural areas, mammals, birds and fish extracted from natural ecosystems constitute the main source of animal protein.
The most commonly hunted animals are the painted jochi (Cuniculus paca), the red jochi (Dasyprocta variegata) and the turkey (Penelope jaqcuacu), supplemented with taitetúes (Tayassu pecari), squirrels (Sciurus cf. boliviensis), huasos (Mazama americana) , tattoos (Dasypus novemcinctus), toranzos (Cebus libidinosus), manechis (Alouatta seniculus), partridges (Tinamus guttatus) and parrots (Amazona farinosa and A. ochrocephala), among others. In a study in 6 communities in the region, Calderón (2008) establishes an average of 9,486 kg of animals hunted per community, which implies a contribution of 1581 kg of meat. 72% of this hunt was scheduled.
Likewise, fishing is an activity that constitutes a large contribution to the obtaining of protein by the families of the communities. Especially in communities with access to rivers, streams and major lakes, fishing is one of the main sources of animal protein.
Only in a limited number of communities some families have turned this activity into their main way of life by selling frozen or charqueado fish in urban center markets. In most cases this activity is carried out under an enabling system where a wholesaler provides an advance for the acquisition of materials and especially ice and transport.
Although there are no clear data on fish volumes, it is clearly an important item with a lot of potential for the regional economy.
Use of Non-Timber Forest Products
NTFPs represent an alternative use of forests that is gaining importance. Outside the chestnut there is a great variety of non-timber species that are exploited on a small scale, such as motacú, blood of degree, chuchuhuaso, paquío, cusi, majo, wild cocoa, copaibo, siringa, cayú and pupuña.
The importance of these NTFPs tends to be underestimated, because in general they are not commercialized by official markets, and consequently they do not appear in national economic statistics (chestnut forming a clear exception).
As a result, NWFPs are generally forgotten in the development of development policies and plans. However, for the livelihoods of forest dwellers, NWFPs constitute an important source of food, blanket, materials and work tools, food for domestic animals and medicines. In addition, its commercialization generates financial income for the people involved in its extraction, processing and / or commercialization.
The work related to the use of NTFPs often has an interesting potential in consideration of the conditions in the tropical rural regions, and extraction can be a viable and sustainable alternative to other productive activities such as timber extraction and livestock. The use of many NTFPs can be realized without major negative environmental impacts, while preserving the functioning and biodiversity of ecosystems.
Considering the mentioned advantages, numerous initiatives have tried to promote the use of a range of NTFPs, ranging from individual commercial initiatives to large production promotion projects within the framework of international biocommerce.
Although concrete achievements still seem limited to the frequently high expectations, there is a clear trend of growth in the number of concrete examples of biodiversity use with real benefits for the rural population.
However, much remains to be done until these initiatives truly become effective productive opportunities for the region in general.
In recent decades an increasing number of rural and indigenous families have adopted agroforestry as a complementary activity to traditional livelihoods. With the support of NGOs like CIPCA Norte and IPHAE, agroforestry systems (SAF) have been implemented that combine annual crops and perennial fruit trees such as cocoa and cupuazu and timber trees to allow the conversion of degraded areas into productive systems.
Although the success of these systems is limited by the relatively long times of investment of time before production, and threats in the form of fires, floods and droughts, over time more and more families are getting concrete financial benefits that in several cases significantly exceed the income of other productive alternatives.
Likewise, SAFs generate important social and environmental benefits that, in their integrality for producing families, imply an opportunity to invest in their livelihood assets (resources and capacities). In this way, agroforestry not only constitutes a viable complementary activity, but even implies a strategy of diversification of their livelihoods that allows them to escape poverty and the situation of dependence and skill that characterizes the region.