Extractivist landscapes: investigating how the NTFP Açaí (Euterpe precatoria Mart) became an important part of socio-ecological development strategy of family forests in Acre, Brazil

Authors and Affiliations: 

Lopes, E1. Soares Filho, B1., Souza F2., Carvalho Ribeiro, S.1*
1 Universidade Federal Minas Gerais (UFMG), Centro de Sensoriamento Remoto, Av. Antônio Carlos, 6627 Belo Horizonte - MG, Brazil CEP 31270-900 Tel: +55 31 3409-5449 Fax: +55 31 3409-5410
2 WWF, Acre. Rua Hugo Carneiro, 811. Rio Branco - AC, Brazil Tel: +55 68 32231705

Corresponding author: 
Sónia Carvalho Ribeiro

The roles of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) for enhancing livelihoods of family forests and for conserving biodiversity remains debatable. While some explore the ways in which NTFPs can be part of solution for development and conservation (Jaramillo et al. accepted), others point to major drawbacks (Peres et al. 2003). The literature is rich with “context specific” case-studies revealing the huge diversity and complexity of NTFPs as extractivist socio ecological systems. These context specific cases lack generalizability making it difficult to gain a wider picture of how extractivist dilemmas might be addressed at the landscape scale. Here we map the socio-ecology of Açaí extractive systems in the Amazonian state of Acre. Following the classical NTFPs of rubber and the Brazil nut, the Açaí palm berry, noted for its nutritional food qualities has since the 90s become the most collected NTFP in Brazil. In 2015, 216 072 tons of Açaí delivered a production value of nearly US$ 150 million. We modeled the ecology (tree density and productivity) and the production chain of Açaí (prices, costs, rents). Our spatially explicit modelling approach put together the largest geographic dataset both ecological (3 850 palm trees), and socio-economic (collected through interviews and focus groups with collectors, cooperatives, governmental bodies, research institutes, ONGs and industry representatives). Results show that family forests in this region are managed by 5 people (2 men, 2 women, and a child) who have lived in the extractive reserves for over 20 years. Forest land ownership ranges from 127 ±194 ha. Family forests sell, on average, 2724 ± 9994 kg.year-1 of agricultural products such as maize (41%), manioc grain (23%), banana (17%) rice (8%), manioc (6%), bean (2%), watermelon, sugar cane, and pineapple (1%). While for consumption they collect a diversity of NTFPs, for trade, family forests collect Brazil nuts (57%), Açaí (42%) and Rubber (1%) amounting to 1 594±3269 kg.yr-1. Cattle husbandry represents 18% of all production delivering annual rents of US$ 2 268± 13 045. The annual rent of NTFPs is US$ 850±5667, agriculture US$ 852±4374 and poultry US$ 302±970. We inserted those socio economic variables into a Principal Component Analysis and extracted three components. These components were used to group extractivists (K-means) in Acre into two groups: “traditional” and “new extractivists” and the characteristics of both were further investigated. Our analysis of tree density and productivity reveals that the Açaí palm tree has a clustered spatial distribution pattern (as is the case for Brazil nut). To our knowledge this is an original finding from this research. According to our spatially explicit model, Açaí clustered yields may vary from 10 to 2 600 kg.ha-1yr-1in the case of its half production cycle. In 2016, the average cost of collecting 1 kg of Açaí is US$ 0.62 and the average annual rent is US$ 351±2540 yr-1. Our results show that, nowadays areas suitable for economic production may produce sustainably 103kg.ha 1yr 1. We offer policy recommendations for effectively including Açaí as part of a viable socio-ecological development strategy in the state of Acre.


Jaramillo, C., Soares Filho, B. Carvalho Ribeiro S., Gonçalves, R. 2017 Is it possible to make rubber extraction ecologically and economically viable in the Amazon? The southern Acre and Chico Mendes Reserve case study. Ecological Economics.
Peres, C.A., et al., Demographic Threats to the Sustainability of Brazil Nut Exploitation. Science, 2003. 302 (5653): p. 2112-2114.

Oral or poster: 
Oral presentation
Abstract order: