Title of Research:
Conservation and Use of Bursera spp. in the Tropical Dry Forests of Oaxaca: The Role of Markets and Certification in the Management of Non-Timber Forest Products
1999 - 2001
The main objective of this project is to examine the ecological and market dynamics of some non-timber forest products of economic importance from thedry tropical forests of Oaxaca, Mexico.
One case is the extraction of wood from branches of Bursera trees to elaborate alebrijes, carved figures sold mainly in international markets, providing good returns but based on resource overexploitation. Other case is the extraction of copal resin also from Bursera trees, a product used all over Mexico with a high ritualistic value, and from which weignore the actual status of the natural populations and market structure.
We want to elaborate sustainable management plans for these products and do this with local communities in a participatory fashion. We also want to explore and discuss the value of certification as a way to get products (alebrijes elaborated with sustainable produced wood) into protected markets, though we ignore yet if thiscould also apply to the extraction of copal resin, since it is directed to a very different market and group of consumers.
The alarming rates of tropical forest loss resulting from inadequate land use practices such as logging, cattle ranching and shifting cultivation, has motivated a search for new ways to use these forests. Marketing of sustainably harvested Non-Timber ForestProducts (NTFPS) can provide economic benefits to local inhabitants causing minimal impact on ecosystems, reconciling conservation and development in species-rich forests (Godoy & Bawa 1993; Nepstad & Schwartzman 1992; Peters et al. 1989; Plotkin & Famolare 1992).
There is ample evidence that some traditional societies use a great variety of products obtained from natural ecosystems in an almost naturalstate (Alcorn 1984; Caballero et al. 1978; Prance et al. 1987; Toledo et al. 1978). However, there are also cases in which extraction results in overexploitation (Bodmer et al. 1990; Browder 1992; Vazquez & Gentry 1989) especially when products are commercialized at a great scale.
My hypothesis is that most NTFPs that enter conventional or established markets, particularly those far away fromthe site of extraction, tend to be unsustainably harvested and therefore overexploited. This is because prices do not reflect the real value (i.e. the amount of work accumulated in manufacturing the object and the danger of extinction of the primary goods) in the conventional markets and, because of lack of information or interest, target buyers are not willing to pay an extra cost for a sustainablemanagement, a concept that seems to contradict most of the market laws.
If commercialization of NTFPs is to contribute to the conservation of natural resources it should be not by being "competitive" in established markets but by entering protected markets. In protected markets consumers "pay an extra price" and thus choose to contribute to the conservation of natural resources in tropicalregions.
Certification has been proposed as a mechanism to guarantee consumers and buyers sustainability in natural, social and economic terms, It is an instrument of forest policy (Chapela 1998) based on knowledge of the biological and socioeconomic attributes of a managing system. However, it is not a 'miracle cure' that alone can change trends in forest management, but a component of a strategicapproach to the sustainable management of forests (Upton & Bass 1996) and a key factor in NTFPs commercialization through protected markets.
There is an associated risk and possible negative impacts on local cultural traditions when commercialization of NTFPs results in price increase due to a higher demand by external markets (Martin 1992). Research on actual marketing conditions, especially...