soccer game comes down to penalty kicks during
a festival celebrating Ex Petroleros' new school
building. Settlement is organized into municipalities
which have either dispersed or nucleated populations.
A school, soccer field and/or church may serve
as town center.
mosaic of land-use typical of a family withe
large holdings. A sugar cane monoculture lies
to the left, pasture for a water buffalo in
the center cassava in the foreground, and what
is probably primary forest in the background.
A few families with large and secure land holdings
may be in the position to have livestock or
plant and process sugar cane into alcohol.
Families with smaller and less secure holdings
generally have a higher diversity of crops
within a given field, but on the other hand,
they may not be in a position to manage the
land for long-term use.
am studying socioeconomic dynamics influencing patterns
of land use change, a direction motivated by my concern
regarding habitat loss and its effects on biodiversity.
Among causes of species loss worldwide, land use
change tops the list. Tropical rainforests are an
area of special concern because of their high levels
of biodiversity. In Peru this summer, I initiated
a project in which I seek to understand the pattern
and rationale of land use decisions by colonists
along a highway through the Amazonian rainforest.
Deforestation and resource extraction contribute
significantly to biodiversity loss. However, I am
interested not only in understanding why certain
areas are deforested per se, but also whether some
combination of socioeconomic situations (e.g. solid
property rights) and physical variables (e.g. soil
type) lead to more sustainable patterns of use. Sustainable
use of land hopefully lessens the demand for further
highway begins in Iquitos, Peru's largest forest
city. It differs from many other Amazonian highways
because it doesn't provide a direct connection to
the national economy-it goes 100 km to the south
to a smaller town called Nauta. Nevertheless, many
of the patterns associated with other forest roads
are seen there. The road has opened up land to settlement
and has allowed extraction of natural resources such
as lumber and game.
standing in front of the Institute for investigating
the Peruvian Amzaon. Investigators at IIAP
are my collaborators, and the institution supported
me intellectually and logistically in addition
to providing a desk, computer, room and board.
spent my summer working with the Institute for Investigating
the Peruvian Amazon (el Instituto de Investigaciones
de la Amazonia Peruana, or IIAP), a government initiated
but independent research organization. IIAP has been
working on an Economic and Ecological Zonification
of the area influenced by the Iquitos-Nauta highway.
Over half of my time was spent in Iquitos, primarily
learning from and networking with scientists from
a range of disciplines, not only from IIAP but also
from Non-Governmental Organizations, the Spanish
bilateral aid agency, local and North American universities,
and INRENA (Instituto Nacional de Recursos Naturales).
I also was taking Spanish lessons and preparing to
go into the field. Space considerations preclude
me from elucidating the large amount of information
on the history, geography, and economy of the region
which I reaped.
other critical portion of my work consisted of several
weeks in the field. I visited various communities
and sites in the region. This breadth supplemented
in-depth research in the town of Ex Petroleros (km
42), where I lived and worked with an assistant in
three stints for a total of 17 days.
in Region, 1996 (Ch 8, Romero y Oritz, in Geoecología
y Desarrollo Amazónico, p 369-387.)
31,800 Nearby River Communities (on the Amazon, Itaya, and Nanay rivers)
muddy road served Ex Petroleros for 15 years,
but only in the past three years has the highway
been paved. The recent influx of mostly landless
immagrants has resulted in a building boom
on either side of the highway. These families
are granted 10m by 10m plots for their homes,
but must beg, borrow or squat upon land to
visited a variety of locations to get a broad social
and environmental overview of the region. This included
visits to various communities along the edge of the
highway, a community along a penetration trail to
the west, two river communities along the Rio Itaya
(about a two hour hike east of the highway), and
a community halfway between the highway and the river.
My in depth work focused mainly in the town of Ex
Petroleros, Zone 1 along the highway at km 42. There
were two phases to my fieldwork in Ex Petroleros.
PHASE: informal interviews covering history, economy
Economic activities A basic activity of almost all families is subsistence
farming: slash and burn followed by cultivation of cassava, plantain, rice,
some maize. Mixed within this are often several fruit species, and occasionally
lumber species. The subsistence crops are also sometimes sold. Other economic
activities include fish farms, fruit, leaves for thatch, medicinal plants,
livestock (chicken and occasionally ducks in most households; pigs in a few;
water buffalo in one), lumber harvesting, sugar cane, palm hearts, and charcoal
· Settled around 1985. Named Ex Petroleros after workers who had seen the end
of the petroleum work boom. Dirt road.
· 1985-1988 Credit. Extensive cultivation. Manioc, plantain, generally. High
cultivation. Couldn't pay back because couldn't get to market: road muddy, impassible.
· 1980-1995: End of credit. Almost entirely subsistence farming. Some people
leave. Amount of agriculture lower.
· 1996: Palm hearts extension and loan efforts in high gear
· 1997-2000: Highway paved past Ex Petroleros in 1997. Market suddenly accessible.
Increase in agricultural production. Large migration of largely landless families.
· 1999: palm heart prices crash, leaving campesinos facing low prices almost
across the board for agricultural products. Fish and a few species of bushmeat
are among few items that demand a premium.
People repeatedly noted that extractive forest resources require a longer hike.
This is for game, lumber, and leaves for roof thatching.
TRIP: Testing formal survey with more specific
research questions in mind
In my second and third trips to Ex Petroleros, I focused on a test run of a
more formal survey, with explicit questions. The survey covered family's demographics;
history; economic data such as production, autoconsumption, and vending; and
land use practices. The results of the survey are as yet unanalyzed, but the
framework for my research follows. I plan to follow up my work with further
interviews next summer.
am interested in socioeconomic ties to land use decisions
on a household level. While I am certainly concerned
about rates and patterns of eforestation, I recognize
that land use decisions are more complex than simply
choosing whether "to clear or not to clear". Different
management patterns affect the length of time over
which land remains productive. Practices which maintain
the productivity of land over the long term may reduce
the need to clear more land. I am thus interested
in socioeconomic dynamics which lead to more "sustainable" use.
The exercise in my mind can be separated into three parts:
1. Is there a typology of land users? Can users be categorized?
2. Are there differences in the "sustainability" of land use between different
3. What is the rationale behind land use decisions?
These questions were in mind when I designed my survey questionnaire.
In addressing the first two questions (typology and their relation to sustainability),
studies of colonists in Ecuador and Brazil have 1) revealed different types
of land users and 2) that their different land use patterns have clear ramifications
Factors expected to be important in land use decisions:
Income: not just monetary, but autoconsumption
Land TITLE / security of property rights
Desires for future
Distance to market
My current attempt to define sustainable, including measurable indices, is
as follows. 1) Minimum impact on ecosystems and ecosystem services. May include
how much acreage is cleared. 2) Production which is maintained through time:
a pattern of land use which does not deplete the physical soil or its nutrients.
Largely speaking of agroforestry systems. Specific indices include: management
of land over the long term rather than using and abandoning plots; longer fallow
period; planting of fruit and lumber species which increase the value of fallow
areas; and use of legumes to maintain soils and soil nutrients.
Rationale of land use choices
at kilometer 41 of the Iquitos-Nauta in the
town of Ex Petroleros, where I lived and conducted
interviews for 17 days.
rationale behind land use decisions hasn't been analyzed
in this region. I am addressing this from a couple
of directions. First is an economic framework, looking
at optimization of land use by parcel, or optimization
of household activity (including labor in various
land uses plus labor in Iquitos). My intention is
to develop a household economic model, potentially
one which is spatially explicit. Another important
method is to ask motivation for land use decisions
during interviews. I will be returning in the summer
of 2001 to continue these studies.
Gove is a PhD student in the Department of Environmental
Science, Policy, and Management.