Bioversity international

Chapter 7. Following the flooding cycles in the Amazon rainforest Fishing, chagra and forest food system of the Tikuna, Cocama and Yagua peoples in Puerto Nariño, Colombia

Section 2 Sustainability of the Indigenous Peoples’ food system


Although planting, growing and caring for the chagra involve joint and equal participation of both men and women, the chagra is considered to be a woman’s domain as it constitutes a family information system that allows the personal fulfillment of family members through the generation of knowledge. The participants believe that women are represented in the chagra as a centre of knowledge. Mothers use the chagra system to educate their children by teaching them skills to obtain food for the family and transmit values and knowledge to achieve social welfare and survive as distinct peoples. Whether women are involved in post-fishing and post-hunting activities, the performance of these tasks is mostly associated with men, as in the specific case of fishing. Being a man with good fishing skills is considered an important quality when forming a family, as he can thus guarantee the supply of protein to the family group. In this way, learning and acknowledging their own food production constitutes an important basis for the population’s survival and generational well-being.

Adequacy of income opportunities

Communities’ members do not consider that producing food exclusively for sale is profitable, the reason being the high costs of transportation from the community to the urban area. In addition, marketing opportunities are limited to Puerto Nariño’s urban area, which further discourages this selling activity. Indeed, there are only a small number of permanent buyers, consisting of some restaurants, hotels, tourists and the population of the urban area. For all these reasons, income generation is based on the sale of surpluses, which allows families to obtain other products that they do not produce themselves. Families that spend less time in the chagra or those who live in the urban area tend to spend more time on other activities within the market economy, depending on the generation of income to satisfy their food needs. At present, the population is engaged in different income-generating activities such as tourism, crafts, and construction work or service provision to the government institutions in Puerto Nariño.

Following the seasonality of the ecosystem, the population adapts the way they generate income, since more than half the average income comes from the sale of surpluses from agriculture and fishing. In the case of the chagra, cassava is the product that has the greatest potential for transformation. Together with its derivatives, such as starch and farina, they are in greatest demand at urban markets. The economic contribution of fishing represents the second most important item for families in the reserve, since 24 percent of the total income of an average family comes from fishing, with self-consumption being more than half of this value. In other words, the contribution of fishing is highly significant if we consider the cost of the fish products consumed within each household throughout the year. Fish products intended for marketing are sold at the local market of Puerto Nariño’s urban area. They are sold immediately upon returning to the urban area or the communities. The fish is bought fresh every day and for immediate consumption, thus the product is not packaged and does not gain any added value arising from the transformation. Nevertheless, it is important to point out that the population living in the urban area generates income from the sale of prepared fish, which is offered at small food stalls or restaurants, adding value to the fish during preparation.

Amongst the foods produced and processed specifically for the market, the cultivation and production of sacha inchi (Plukenetia volubilis L., Euphorbiaceae, Inca peanut) was identified. This nut is, however, not part of the local food system. It was introduced in the last three years as part of a national government initiative to encourage farming and the generation of income for communities. Nevertheless, despite being a high-yielding crop on Amazonian soil, the introduction of this crop has resulted in great challenges for the families that planted it in the chagras. As it is not a traditional product, adequate strategies to manage pests and fungi are not known by the communities’ members. Furthermore, potential buyers were limited to one or two who set the purchase price, which at times did not even cover production costs. The participants related believing that agricultural production projects requiring the introduction of crops dependent on fertilizers and pesticides to obtain acceptable yields were an inefficient strategy for income generation and food production. Instead, they alter the food-generating system and its sustainability towards self-consumption. One of the reasons is that production is not consumed locally, which leads to the gradual loss of diversity of farms, food diversity itself, and the families’ self-sufficiency in feeding themselves. Such context jeopardizes the chagras’ diversity and the knowledge about food production supporting the population’s traditional ways of life.

Adequacy of diets

The diet of the communities’ members is based on a variety of foods including fruits, fish, meat, vegetables, grains and, to a lesser extent, some dairy products. All the participants reported that they would rather consume more of their own food, such as fish, cassava and its derivatives, fruits from the chagra, and bushmeat than other products available at the urban markets. In general, the population considers that the good quality of their food is due mainly to the fact that they use ancestral knowledge to produce it. This allows them to produce food without chemical fertilizers, which ultimately reduces health risks and avoids water and soil contamination.

The products that are consumed the most as part of the diet of both children and adults are identified and classified into larger groups according to their origin: products from the chagra and the forest; fish and proteins produced by the community, such as bushmeat and eggs; and products acquired from the market, such as canned meats, powdered milk, eggs, pasta, grains, tuna and frozen chicken. In the case of adults, food sourced from the chagra and the forest represent 50 percent of the diet. Another 25 percent of the total diet is sourced from the local landscape and it represents protein-rich food items such as fish, bushmeat, eggs and other food produced in the community. Out of these protein-rich items, studies carried out by Trujillo and Laiseca (2016) show that fish represents 81 percent of the family protein intake. In the case of the Ticoya reserve, it is equivalent to approximately 2.6 kg per person/month or 31 kg per person/year, thus tripling national average consumption (Autoridad Nacional de Acuicultura y Pesca, 2018a). The proportions of food sourced from the chagra and the forest, and from the local landscape, remain similar when it comes to children aged 6 to 11 years. These two sources correspond to 40 percent and 30 percent of the diet, respectively. The remaining 25 percent and 30 percent of the respective diets of older adults and children is sourced from the market. Older adults preferably consume canned meat, milk powder and purchased eggs (15 percent of the diet), as well as food items such as pasta and other grains (10 percent of the diet) from the market. The children, however, preferably consume frozen chicken and canned tuna (20 percent of the diet), but also pasta, lentils, beans and chickpeas (10 percent of the diet). The adults noted that the children show a preference for market products, such as canned goods and pasta, as those products are often provided in school.

With regard to the food needs of specific groups in the communities, such as the elderly, community solutions are being sought. For instance, networks of solidarity amongst families or friends have been built to meet the food needs of those who have special nutritional requirements. Additionally, there is a Senior Assistance Centre in the urban area that provides support through a Senior Feeding Programme. Regarding children, this centre offers food assistance through the educational institutions by providing school meals consisting of a snack and lunch on school days. In addition to this, the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF) exercises its mandate to improve the nutrition status and proper development of children under 5 years of age. However, all the participating parents expressed their dissatisfaction regarding the nutrition programmes implemented. They argued that the meals provided by the Institute to the children are not adequate for their healthy growth. They explained that the portions neither include foods that are part of the traditional indigenous diet nor are the quantities adequate. The parents also stated that the food provided by the ICBF contained a high level of preservatives and artificial sweeteners that could have harmful effects on health.

Changes in the provision of livelihoods and social well-being over time

The parents said that buying proteins, such as canned meats and frozen chicken, is part of their new eating habits, with the communities’ members having increased their activities related to the market. They argued that the more they are integrated into “outside” activities from Government and other actors, the less time they have for growing and preparing traditional foods. They also stated that the children’s participation in school feeding programmes has gradually decreased the children’s liking for traditional foods, and increased their preference for processed products. Although the participants did not report any phenomena of food insecurity, they did state that in the last five years, diets have significantly changed in regard to animal protein intake. Fish are increasingly scarce, leading to higher prices, especially during the high-water period as fish abundance is reduced. In response to the fish deficit, the consumption of chicken, bought at a lower price than fish, has increased. Nevertheless, the culinary preference for fish over chicken prevails.

This decreased availability of traditional foods can also have repercussions on the cultural practices of the Tikuna, Cocama and Yagua. Pelazon is an important celebration that can occur any time of the year and which celebrates the passing from a girl to a woman. Parties organised usually last three days at least, and anyone in the community is welcome. However, the diminished quantity of traditional food such as bushmeat and fish to share affect the practising of this ritual.

The primary cause of the changes in the diet, culinary traditions and lifestyle of the communities’ members is their rapid and unplanned integration into the market economy. Over the past 10 years, this process has increased the need for families to generate income to guarantee the availability of food and to cover the new needs that are arising with the market economy. Based on this exercise, the participants concluded that it is necessary to (1) promote the consumption and production of their own products within families; (2) involve the children in food production activities, especially protein food sources, such as fishing; and (3) create strategies to restructure government programmes – for example, adapting school meal plans to the Indigenous Peoples’ diets.


Land and soil

Despite the soils’ low fertility, communities’ members consider the soil apt for their families’ food production. They compensate for the lack of nutrients by decomposing organic matter resulting from the selective felling of forests, burning wood, and using fruit and vegetable peels, as well as fish guts. This process generates compost and natural organic fertilizer, making the soil suitable for planting. The communities’ inhabitants are able to identify good soil by observing its characteristics and results after planting. For instance, the colour and texture are indicators of good soil, as well as the production of food of a good size and colour. For the population, good soil – which makes a bountiful harvest of products possible – is black, sandy, loose and easy to plant. Conversely, soil inadequate for cultivation tends to be clayey and dry.

Labour and fuel energy

Food production requires long hours of dedication, especially in the initial phase of selective felling and burning of trees to create new chagras. Afterwards, cleaning and planting are the most labour-intensive activities. The minga, as a mechanism of communal solidarity work, consists of gathering friends and family members together to help carry out these activities during a full day of work. The minga is an important activity that constitutes a network of support available for any type of work requiring physical strength and labour. It also establishes reciprocity amongst the community so that others can also benefit in the future. The family that calls the minga together is responsible for providing enough food to those who come to work.

The main source of energy of the participating communities, except for the community of Santa Clara de Tarapoto, is the electric power service provided by the private company Energía para el Amazonas (ENAM). It makes community lighting possible, as well as allowing the refrigerators, televisions and cellphones to work in homes. Energía para el Amazonas generates electricity through the combustion of diesel fuel, not only in Puerto Nariño but also in the entire Amazonas Department. Propane gas is used for cooking and heating food in all the communities, although the use of firewood is still common. Firewood is commonly used in the communities for cooking and is one of the resources directly obtained from the forest.

Fossil fuels are linked with river transportation as they are used for boat engines. Although not all families can afford having a motorboat, community members use small motors that are cheaper. At the community level, people are in charge of providing transportation services. Gasoline is used to run some power tools, such as sawmills or chainsaws, electric graters, and, to a lesser extent, some tools for wood polishing and carpentry. In the case of the community of Santa Clara de Tarapoto, as it is not connected to the electricity service provided by ENAM, fossil fuels are used to power electric generators. Solar energy is the primary source of light. As part of a State-funded programme, solar panels were installed in the communities of 20 de Julio, Valencia, Palmeras and San Martín de Amacayacu,39 but they are not yet operational due to the lack of resources to have a company in charge of their operation and maintenance.


Freshwater sources include rainfall, streams, lakes and rivers. Rainwater is commonly used for drinking, cooking and in farming. Water from the river is used for bathing, washing clothes and other domestic cleaning activities. In the summer season, due to the scarcity of rainfall, communities lack water. Consequently, it is necessary to use water from streams, which is boiled before drinking. In turn, the várzea areas are subject to annual flooding when the water levels rise in bodies of water. As a result, inhabitants experience a change in landscape and way of life. Such circumstances have driven them to adopt measures such as building houses on stilts to withstand the flood season.

With respect to the time allocated to collecting water for consumption, people stressed that they devote considerable time and effort to this activity, particularly at the end of winter and at the beginning of summer. It is common to install plastic tanks in the courtyards to collect rainwater from roofs and gutters, which is then filtered using mosquito nets.40 In the summer, people go to the banks of rivers and lakes to collect water. This takes them anywhere between 3 and 15 minutes on foot depending on the location of the houses.


Most adult participants do not consider organic remains as “waste” but as part of the natural cycle. They reintegrate these remains into the ecosystem as fertilizer or as fish food in the case of seeds. This supports the efficiency of their food system, since most of the waste produced in the communities is organic and only a minimal amount is non-biodegradable material, which is considered “unpleasant” or “unusable”. This consists mainly of packaging used for products purchased at the market, as well as batteries, electronic waste and chemical residues, such as oils, soap or detergent.

One phenomenon that concerns participants is the increasing accumulation of plastic waste in the landscape, particularly bottles. In the urban area, the municipality is in charge of waste collection and management. The participants noted that urban waste management is better than it is in the communities. However, the Comprehensive Municipal Solid Waste Management Plan (Municipio de Puerto Nariño, 2015) concluded that the municipality of Puerto Nariño does not have a sustainable plastic waste management strategy in place. It forecasted that in the next 20 years, its plastic accumulation capacity will be less than the plastic waste generation rate due to increases in tourist activity, which is considered a high-polluting activity that threatens the ecosystem’s sustainability. Although some plastic is recycled for use as garden and orchard decorations, these strategies are not capable of absorbing all the plastic that is generated, so the communities burn plastic that accumulates. The participants emphasized that new waste that generates rust, such as batteries, nails, cans, staples and sheets, are considered “harmful” or “very toxic for the environment”, given their limited use and inability to be reintegrated into the ecosystem.

Changes in resource use efficiency over time

Land use intensity has changed mainly due to population growth, integration into the market economy, and the influence of programmes by the Ministry of Environment and Rural Development, which aim to stimulate agricultural production in areas larger than those traditionally cultivated by introducing new planting and cultivation techniques requiring agrochemicals. In the case of the community of Puerto Esperanza, programmes have been implemented, with little success, to produce sacha inchi (Plukenetia volubilis, Inca peanut) and cocoa (Theobroma cacao). In terms of changes over time in labor efficiency and energy consumption, external and non-renewable energy sources have become more and more important over the past 40 years. Previously, the communities did not have power plants and motorboats were uncommon. However, work done directly by people, without the aid of any external energy sources, remains highly common.

Indigenous women in the community participating in the thematic discussions.
© National University of Colombia/Sara Peña.

The use of powered tools is limited to those activities that are more difficult and are not directly associated with food production, such as transportation or logging. The latter, when carried out as a business activity, requires mechanical tools other than the machetes and axes used in subsistence activities. Regarding the use of water, people are consuming filtered water by using filters made by hand or with activated carbon. Conversely, the consumption of packaged water is a practice that is gaining popularity amongst families with higher incomes, particularly those in settlements near the urban area.


Crop and livestock biodiversity

The population of the Ticoya reserve cultivates a great diversity of species, both in chagras and gathered from the forest, which are amongst the foods consumed the most by the families. The list includes: fruits (47), tubers and roots (2), vegetables (3), nuts and seeds (3), cereals (2) and others (7). Fruits and nuts are gathered according to their seasonal availability. In the case of garden-grown species, most of them are introduced seeds, especially aromatic herbs, peppers and tomatoes. Cassava is the most common product in the chagras as all families cultivate it. The banana is another essential food in the diet as it is consumed almost daily and can therefore be found in every chagra.

Wild harvested animals and fish

Amongst the 68 most consumed fish species reported by Urbano-Bonilla et al. (2014), 22 were identified as the highest current consumption in households. Since endemic fish species, such as tiger catfish (Pseudoplatystoma sp.) and pirarucú (Arapaima gigas Schinz, Osteoglossidae), fall into the “vulnerable” category, the communities have been implementing a fishery monitoring system for more than 10 years through Community Fisheries Agreements (Autoridad Nacional de Acuicultura y Pesca, 2018b). Those agreements have contributed significantly to the recovery of these species. The calendar for responsible fishing41 prepared by the fisherfolk and elder knowledge holders is one of the outcomes of the Community Fisheries Agreements for the good use of the Lakes of Tarapoto. Amongst others, it provides recommendations on the daily limit of catch of fish, the tools that can be used and the ones that are prohibited, and the use of regulated nets depending on the area and the season. It also recommends preserving the food source of fish by prohibiting cutting down seed trees in the pepeaderos forest fruiting sites.

Regarding hunting, 24 species were identified as the most hunted and consumed by the population. The Airumakuchi (loosely translated as “Tigers of the Water”) Hunters’ Association was created in 2015 to seek a more sustainable form of hunting within the reserve. However, no activities carried out by the association were identified. It was found that hunting sustainability depends on a combination of community and institutional efforts to limit hunting and commercialisation within the reserve.

Ecosystem conservation and protection

According to their traditional lifestyle, members of the communities simultaneously take part in different activities regarding their food system, such as farming in which the entire family group participates, or fishing where parents and children alike play different roles during the fishing and post-catch activities. Hunting and gathering are essential to maintain the food system. These activities not only generate food but are also important moments of social interaction in which ecological, cultural and traditional knowledge is shared and transmitted, ensuring the sustainability of the food system itself.

At a socio-ecological level, fishing has remained important across generations, not only as a source of food and protein but also because of the cultural and social significance that embeds fishing and the fishing areas. According to the stories of the Tikuna people, their cosmogony and storytelling about the underwater world, the origin of life, and the origin of human beings is rooted on the fishing areas and banks of the Amazon River as well as the Lagos de Tarapoto Wetlands Complex.

Figure 7.4 shows different areas within the reserve identified according to their use within the framework of the Tarapoto wetlands management plan as the first Ramsar Site in the Colombian Amazonian area.

FIGURE 7.4. Zoning of the Lagos de Tarapoto Wetlands Complex image
Source: Modified by Nicole Franco, Fundación Omacha, 2020.

Along with the Puerto Nariño urban area and the water bodies, an area of about 93.5 km2 is allocated for production. This area comprises the chagras, the conservation areas of the várzea forests, and the fruiting sites called pepeaderos used to breed minor and native fish species. In addition, areas are dedicated for eco-tourism and other conservation initiatives such as REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), which receives payments for ecosystem services, as well as to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect forests and trees.

Figure 7.4 also shows a total area under ecological restoration and local research, equivalent to 306.6 km2. This area has been degraded by different uses and now sees a variety of conservation and restoration initiatives by the communities, such as reforestation, pepeaderos, tourism, hunting and fishing regulated under the Tarapoto Lakes Fishing Agreements and initiatives under REDD+ to stop forest logging. In the preservation area, research and tourism without authorization are prohibited.

Finally, outside these areas high terraces of the mainland are used for sustainable farming, either through chagras or communal environmental initiatives.

Changes in the conservation and protection of resources over time

The main changes in the use of forests and landscapes are related to changes in how the ecosystem is used, which has moved from a traditionally sustainable use to one more focussed on the extraction and commercial use of animal and plant species. One of the phenomena identified occurred between 1960 and 1970 with regard to the increasing extraction of fish and wild fauna, which involved capturing species intended for marketing. These included the pirarucú (Arapaima gigas), the black caiman (Melanosuchus niger) from which only the skin was extracted for commercial purposes, as well as the jaguar and its skin (Panthera onca L., Felidae) and otters (Pteronura brasiliensis Gmelin, Mustelidae and Lontra longicaudis Olfers, Mustelidae). Such fauna markets caused the greatest negative impact on the people. The participants associated this period of extraction with a weakening of traditional practices related to fishing and hunting, as the increase in extraction levels was based on technology and the use of firearms and nylon nets. The inhabitants mentioned that at that time, many fishing areas within Tarapoto Lake were difficult to access due to greater forest density, the abundance of animals considered dangerous (snakes and caimans), and the cultural beliefs associated with beings of nature responsible for caring for the ecosystems, which happen to be the protagonists of several stories about the origin of animals. For instance, the mother of the lakes is represented by a large snake or anaconda (Eunectes murinus L., Boidae) that lives at the bottom of the lake and in the flooded forests. Furthermore, there is a story regarding the Amazon river dolphins (Inia geoffrensis), which turn into men and captivate women to take with them to live in the underwater world called Natütama in the Tikuna language.

Trends show that due to the adverse effects of the extractive boom, people always go back to mechanisms based on traditional knowledge and sustainable use of natural resources to recover previously affected areas. Furthermore, whilst this extractive boom led to a decrease in several animal and plant species in the landscape, it also generated a process of protection and recovery of species at risk from both the communities and the State to counterbalance. This is what led to the initiative of having the Tarapoto wetlands within the Ramsar Convention.


Governance of natural resources

The current governance system of natural resources has taken shape with the adoption of the Colombian Constitution in 1991. This constitution recognised rights of indigenous populations as well as territorial autonomy. On the basis of this recognition, the government began to promote the protection of cultural diversity as the nation’s intangible heritage. The State also adopted actions aimed at strengthening the culture and well-being of Indigenous Peoples. However, in some cases, the adoption and implementation of ambiguous policies have undermined the right of indigenous communities to fully exercise their autonomy and govern themselves.

The current governance system encompasses the highest number of actors involved in ecosystem management in the history of the community (Table 7.6). Nevertheless, it is evident that the presence of more institutions does not necessarily imply better organization of the population or more efficient use of natural resources. The participants consider that the arrival of initiatives and projects from NGOs or government institutions focussed on conservation and natural resource management do not ensure the transmission of traditional knowledge amongst the Indigenous Peoples.

TABLE 7.6. Actors involved in the management and use of natural resources and their functions for the period from 1991 to now image

Communities’ members are concerned by the lack of environmental education based on traditional knowledge, as well as a lack of initiatives to revitalize and strengthen the language. Throughout generational changes, indigenous languages are being taught and used less and less. This is one of the main challenges for each community, family and generation as languages are an avenue to maintain and preserve their traditional knowledge and the management practices of their territory and ecosystems. A mother of a Tikuna family stated:

“A Tikuna should know how to speak the language, how to work the chagra, and how to produce their food so as not to die of hunger. They should know their traditions. A Tikuna who doesn’t speak the language is not a good Tikuna. And we should teach this to our children.”

On one hand, the communities recognised that institutional dialogue is needed, as well as support from the State and the private sector to face the different socio-economic changes. However, they also highlighted the need to implement their own processes according to their own organizational and governance structure. Although there are more leaders representing the communities today, the population reported dissatisfaction with the decisions made by some leaders on behalf of the communities. Moreover, the recently formed association of indigenous councils, which performs functions related to the management of the General Participation System’s resources,42 has in recent years triggered conflicts over mismanagement of these resources.

In accordance with the above, it is clear that there is a need to create spaces for dialogue and agreement that allow finding solutions based on a common approach. Communities’ members are also open to new governance strategies to improve the governance of nature as well as the well-being of the municipality members. These governance strategies aim to better integrate indigenous communities into the systems and services of the market economy without affecting their traditions and ways of life.

Finally, municipality members highlighted the community organising processes that have given rise to new institutions legitimized by the community and which have reached a good level of trust and credibility, such as Community Fisheries Agreements and Agricultural Producer Associations. The need to generate greater interaction between the communities, academia, the State and NGOs is emphasized. This interaction aims to strengthen the exchange of knowledge and the necessary participatory mechanisms to allow the communities to comprehensively manage their territory and resources based on their empowerment and self-governance.

View on the Ticoya reserve, Amazonas Department.
© Fundación Omacha/Fernando Trujillo.

Changes in governance of natural resources over time

Based on the research methodology applied by Escobar (2019) in her research on fisheries and governance in the area, thematic discussions held were aimed at identifying changes in the governance of natural resources over time. Escobar (2019) identified changes in traditional practices regarding natural resource management in the Tarapoto wetlands area. Particular attention was paid to the changes in fishery resources because, aside from being the main source of protein, fishing also has historically determined the population’s lifestyles and their way of relating to the ecosystem and adapting to changes over time. Furthermore, the study showed that the fishery crisis and fishery management have had an impact on the legitimate institutions that for many years allowed the sustainable management not only of fisheries, but also of the ecosystems that the populations have historically used collectively. Therefore, the legitimate and legal institutions governing the use of resources are weak, as they have failed to sustainably manage the ecosystem.

It was noted that throughout history, the communities’ members of the Tikuna-Cocama-Yagua reserve have faced diverse phenomena directly related to the use of ecosystem resources. The author identified two moments in history in which significant changes occurred in the way natural resources were managed and used, influenced by the presence of new actors.

In the first period from background history to 1950, Indigenous Peoples used to live in small communities, having an efficient and sustainable livelihood relying on the forest (Table 7.7). The entire family was involved as a means to transmit traditional knowledge.

TABLE 7.7. Actors involved in the management and use of natural resources and their functions from background history to 1950, corresponding to the time of ancestors image

During the period from 1950 to 1991 before the current governance system, noticeable changes marked the beginning of the integration of the population into the market economy (Table 7.8). Subsequently, those conditions gave rise to new dynamics of consumption and new forms of using natural resources to generate monetary income. The concept of nature as an economic resource was thus established. The Catholic Church and its educational processes came on the scene, making it compulsory to learn Spanish and to organise the population into community settlements.

TABLE 7.8. Actors involved in the management and use of natural resources and their functions from 1950 to 1990, corresponding to the beginning of trade image


A summarized assessment of 13 indicators of resilience is presented below. Throughout the thematic discussions, the resilience of the communities was presented as the keystone. Each indicator evaluated by communities’ members is rated from 1 to 5, with 1 as the lowest score and 5 the highest (Table 7.9).

TABLE 7.9. Assessment of resilience indicators image

The indicators with the lowest scores were number 3 (appropriately connected), number 7 (builds human capital) and number 13 (reasonably profitable). The participants concluded that there was a high correlation between the results of the three indicators, as they considered that the food system would not be profitable in the future. They argued that it would be necessary to develop community cooperation systems, which in turn would imply the strengthening of human capital and the population’s capacities to develop more efficient food systems. As a result, self-sufficiency and optimal production of surpluses would be ensured. It could ultimately be integrated into the market under fair conditions, allowing for a better price based on the differential recognition of products. The participants referred to profitability both at the economic and cultural levels, stating that at the economic level, there was no strategy at present ensuring the fair inclusion of their food in the market economy. However, they recognised that the creation of legal associations, such as the Taü Women’s Association in the community of Puerto Esperanza, are an example of collective effort, and initiatives as such should be supported in the long term.

Indicators 1 (exposed to disturbance), 4 (socially self-organised) and 6 (honours legacy) had an assigned score equivalent to 4. In those cases, the communities found that these aspects have been the key to keeping their ancestors’ legacy alive after making a historical reflection on their ways of life. They stated that even though they do not have an efficient community organization at the reserve level, there are forms of internal organization at the family, family group and friends’ level as channels to transmit and generate knowledge.

Indicator 5 (reflective and shared learning) can be considered as one of the best attributes of the communities’ food system as it was assigned a score of 4.5. It is evident that over time, traditional food production practices have been maintained and adapted to changes in the environment. The reflective learning that has taken place as a result of the community fisheries management of the Lakes of Tarapoto is particularly noteworthy. Even though these lakes have been impacted by extractive phenomena throughout history, there is currently a process of reflection amongst communities’ members that has contributed to the gradual recovery of the ecosystem.

Indicators 2 (globally autonomous and locally interdependent), 8 (coupled with local natural capital), 9 (ecologically self-regulated), 10 (functional diversity), 11 (optimally redundant) and 12 (spatial and temporal heterogeneity) had the highest score. The participants made a brief comparison between their food system and the one used by the urban population. Based on this exercise, they recognised their autonomous production of food and the need to maintain a low level of market dependence. They also recognised that their ways of life were sustainable, even though they identified some non-adequate practices, such as the generation of plastic waste. Additionally, they acknowledge the need to improve the mechanism of processing, transporting and storing food, as well as the need to include drinking water and electric power services.

In relation to the use of local varieties, the products cultivated in the chagra have been diversified as new seeds have been introduced, some of which are Amazonian but not native to their food system, as is the case of sacha inchi. The species fished have varied both in weight and size. Currently, they are smaller than they were 40 years ago. Nevertheless, if we were to compare the same variables for the past 10 years,43 there has been a significant increase in the size and weight of species such as pirarucú (Arapaima gigas) and tiger catfish (Pseudoplatystoma sp.), which are now protected thanks to the Community Fisheries Agreements.

It is our conclusion that the transmission of knowledge remains at high levels, especially for knowledge associated with food production in chagras, considering the time dedicated to it by families as well as the high degree of inclusion of children in these activities. In contrast, regarding fishing and hunting, there is greater difficulty in transmitting knowledge. These activities require working up to several days within the aquatic systems and in the forest, therefore it is less common for parents to involve their children considering their need to attend school or government apprenticeship programmes.

  • 39 The community of San Martín de Amacayacu was not among the communities that took part in the thematic panel discussions.
  • 40 The process of filtering using mosquito nets is aimed at removing objects such as leaves or plant debris found on the roofs of houses.
  • 41 For further information, see
  • 42 The General Participation System refers to the constitution of the resources that the Nation transfers to the territorial entities that are departments, districts and municipalities, for the funding of the services under their responsibility, as defined in Article 76 of Law n° 715 of 2001.
  • 43 The statements are based on discussions led by artisanal fisherfolk, who using their perception and experience reflect on the changes in fishery resources over time.

“Producing our food is inherited from our parents, it is respect for nature and its future children.”

Community member and participant to the thematic discussions in Puerto Nariño.