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Aguaje ( Mauritia Flexuosa)
Cupuaçu (Theobroma Grandiflorum)
Guaraná (Paullinia Cupana)
Medicinal Plants


Agarwood is a resinous substance occurring in trees of the genus Aquilaria (a member of the Thymelaeceae family), a fast-growing forest tree which can be found growing from the foothills of the Himalayas to the rain forests of Papua New Guinea. Outside its native habitat, agarwood is best known in the Near East and Japan.

The most important resin-producing species of Aquilaria are A. agollocha, A. malaccensis and A. crassna.

A. malaccensis is protected worldwide under the (CITES) convention. A. crassna is listed as an endangered species by the Vietnamese Government.

Agarwood has been used for centuries as incense, for medicinal purposes and in perfumery.

First-grade agarwood is one of the most expensive natural raw materials in the world, with prices in consumer countries ranging from a few dollars

per kilogram for very low quality material to more than US$30 000 per kilogram for top quality wood. Agarwood oil fetches similarly high prices. (Source: Agarwood “Wood of Gods” International Conference.)

Agarwood is a one of the most valuable minor forest products of the Southeast Asian tropical forests. In Viet Nam, agarwood is produced from the heartwood of rarely available natural Aquilaria crassna trees. In the authors’ fieldwork in Viet Nam, a natural A. crassna was found in Khanh Hoa province. Information on agarwood exploitation and production was gathered by interviewing local people. The results showed that some of the local people earn their living through agarwood production, but owing to overexploitation the natural resource for this valuable plant has declined dramatically in the past decades, while the demand for the resource remains constant or even increases. The cultivation of A. crassna has started in several places in the country as an initiative for conserving this endangered but economically important plant species. (Source: Quan-Le-Tran, Qui-Kim-Tran, Kouda-K, Nhan-Trung-Nguyen, Maruyama-Y, Saiki-I & Kadota-S. 2003. A survey on agarwood in Vietnam. Journal of Traditional Medicines, 20(3): 124–131.)

For more information, please contact:

Institute of Natural Medicine, Toyama Medical and Pharmaceutical University, 2630 Sugitani, Toyama 930-0194, Japan.

Edible insects in Ngao Model Forest, Agar Aquilaria agallocha Roxb. – a promising non-wood forest product of Bangladesh

Agarwood (Aquilaria agallocha Roxb.) is believed to have originated from the Indian hills of Assam. This species is synonymous with A. malaccensis. It is traded in several forms, ranging from large sections of trunk to finished products such as incense and perfumes. Agarwood chips and flakes are the common tradable forms. Agarwood oil is a highly valuable and frequently traded product. The major constituents of agarwood oil are sesquiterpenes, the chemical structure of which makes them very difficult, hence extremely expensive, to synthesize. Although synthetic agarwood compounds are used to produce poor-quality fragrances and incense sticks, there are currently no synthetic substitutes for high-grade incense or oil. The price of agarwood chips is US$20 to $60 per kilogram; agarwood oil commands US$956 to $7 059 per kilogram on the international market. Agarwood has also been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years, and continues to be used in Ayurvedic, Tibetan and traditional East Asian medicine. The use of agarwood oil for perfumery extends back several thousand years in the Near East. In India various grades of agarwood are distilled separately before blending to produce attar (scent). Minyak attar is a water-based perfume containing agarwood oil, which is traditionally used by Muslims to lace prayer clothes. Agarwood essences have recently been used as a fragrance in soaps and shampoos. Agarwood incense is burned to produce a pleasant scent, its use ranging from a general perfume to an element of important religious occasions.

In Bangladesh the major agarwood-based industries are located in the Kulaura thana under the Moulavibazar districts, where about 100 agar-based industries are located. Most (90 percent) of the entrepreneurs managed capital from their own sources, 6 percent from moneylenders as loans and the remainder from bank loans. Most of the entrepreneurs claimed that owing to the unavailability of capital they were unable to expand their industries. The majority of the industries (64 percent) were under single ownership while the rest had joint ownership. It was found that a remarkable portion of the industries (72 percent) were set up on their own land and the remainder on rented land. The average number of the workforce in these industries was 16, with both skilled and semi-skilled labourers being employed. Raw materials in these industries are collected from homestead forests; there is, therefore, an acute shortage of raw material owing to the absence of commercial agarwood plantations. The Forest Department has recently initiated agar plantations to meet the demands of agar-based industries. Furthermore, entrepreneurs lack modern inoculation techniques and treatment plants for agar oil production.

Agar oil is an export-oriented product and the demand is very high on the international market. The current annual demand for agar oil in the study area is 120 000 tola [1 tola = 10 g], but the supply in the market is only 84 000 tola. The large gap in the demand/supply situation is due to the scarcity of raw materials, fuelwood and also because of government support. Production costs include raw materials, labour, fuelwood and other costs (rent, electricity). In the study area, per unit (tola) production costs were 3 900 taka. The selling price of agar oil per tola is about 5 500 taka and the net income per unit is 1 600 taka [US$1 = 58 taka].

Proper marketing, considered to be the prime constraint for the development of agarwood-based small-scale cottage industries in Bangladesh, needs to be developed considerably. Industry size, the poor financial condition of the entrepreneurs, along with scattered distribution of the industries pose a serious threat to marketing. Entrepreneurs play a significant role in the marketing of agar oil in the study area. In Bangladesh there is no established market for agar oil; the main market is in the Near East. However, small entrepreneurs have no access to that international market. Agents buy agar oil from small industry owners and send it for sale on the Near East market. The marketing of agar products on the international market is highly competitive as it is based on quality standards, advertising and product promotion.

Bangladesh is lagging behind in promotion and marketing; therefore, if we can overcome the prevailing problems in this sector, it is certain that agar-based industries will open up a new window in our small and cottage industries sector. (Contributed by: A.Z.M. Manzoor Rashid, Bangladesh.)

For more information, please contact:
A.Z.M. Manzoor Rashid, Assistant Professor and M. Qumruzzaman Chowdhury, Lecturer, Department of Forestry, Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Sylhet-3114, Bangladesh.
E-mail: [email protected]

Aguaje (mauritia flexuosa)

El aguaje, una alternativa alimentaria desde la Amazonía peruana

La importancia de la presencia de la zanahoria y el zapallo en la dieta diaria, debido a su contenido de vitamina A, hace parte de los conocimientos tradicionales populares. La vitamina A es muy importante para la salud de los ojos, el cabello y la piel, ya que la protege contra los rayos ultravioleta, ayuda al mantenimiento del cutis, previene su resecamiento y el envejecimiento prematuro.

La vitamina A se encuentra en realidad en esos vegetales como provitamina, en forma de betacaroteno, que posee mayor actividad vitamínica y les brinda ese color característico rojo, anaranjado y amarillo. El betacaroteno, además de tener las propiedades ya mencionadas, es uno de los mejores anticancerígenos, previene la arteriosclerosis y actúa como antioxidante neutralizando los radicales libres responsables del envejecimiento.

La ventaja de consumir betacaroteno, en vez de vitamina A, es que ésta consumida directamente y en exceso podría ser potencialmente tóxica pues se acumula en el hígado, mientras que el betacaroteno al actuar como provitamina y siendo liposoluble se acumula como exceso en las grasas y se convertirá en vitamina A en base a las necesidades del organismo.

La industria alimentaria está lanzando al mercado una nueva gama de alimentos enriquecidos con vitaminas A, E, y C que, siendo antioxidantes, se ofrecen como complemento nutricional y para combatir la agresión causada por los radicales libres, satisfaciendo de este modo las crecientes preocupaciones de los consumidores por su salud y bienestar.

En la Amazonía peruana se encuentra el aguaje (Mauritia flexuosa) que viene considerada la palmera más importante por su valor económico, social y ecológico. En el Brasil se la conoce como burití o mirití y en Colombia con el nombre de canangucha. El producto más valioso del aguaje es el fruto, cuya pulpa es rica en betacaroteno (provitamina A), tocoferoles (vitamina E) y ácido ascórbico (vitamina C). Estudios llevados a cabo en Gembloux, Bélgica, en 1987, conjuntamente por la Facultad de Ciencias Agronómicas de L’Etat y la Universidad Nacional de la Amazonía Peruana, y en otro realizado en 1998 por la Universidad Federal del Estado de Pará, en el Brasil, han demostrado que el aceite de aguaje contiene de 173 a 300 mg de betacaroteno y de 80 a 100 mg de tocoferoles por 100 gramos. La pulpa del aguaje contiene de 50 a 60 mg de ácido ascórbico por 100 gramos.

Haciendo una comparación con los principales vegetales que contienen betacaroteno, vitamina E y ácido ascórbico, se puede afirmar que el aceite de aguaje contiene de 21 a 38 veces más provitamina A que la zanahoria, de 25 a 31 veces más vitamina E que la palta (aguacate), e igual cantidad de vitamina C que la naranja y el limón.

En el Brasil, su aceite se comercializa como protector solar porque absorbe completamente las radiaciones ultravioletas, y también en forma de jabón. En la ciudad de Iquitos, Perú, el aguaje viene comercializado y consumido como fruta, helado («curichi»), refresco («aguajina») y para hacer mermeladas.

En un estudio reciente, efectuado por el Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonía Peruana (IIAP), en el 2000, se determinó que el 96,7 por ciento de las unidades familiares en la ciudad de Iquitos la consumen. Proyectando ese resultado al ambiente estudiado, se pudo calcular que se necesitan aproximadamente 657,9 toneladas mensuales (21,9 toneladas diarias) de aguaje para satisfacer la demanda, lo cual en base a los parámetros de producción del estudio lleva a concluir que se necesita cosechar 13 827 árboles al mes (461 árboles diarios). El movimiento económico que produce esta actividad es de aproximadamente 358 145 dólares EE.UU.

El método tradicional de cosecha comporta el corte de la planta (de 15 a 20 años de edad), destruyendo de esta manera su período productivo estimado en 40 años. El campesino sólo aprovecha 3 o 4 racimos maduros de los 6 u 8 que tiene la palmera. Si se supone que para satisfacer el consumo mensual de la ciudad de Iquitos se están talando 13 827 árboles al mes, se está ante una situación muy alarmante, que aún no se percibe debido a la abundancia del recurso, ya que se estima una reserva de aproximadamente 5,64 millones de hectáreas de «aguajales» (el ecosistema donde predomina la palmera Mauritia flexuosa) en la Amazonía peruana. Sin embargo, estos datos no deben llevar a una falsa percepción de abundancia del recurso, ya que hay que tener en cuenta que ésta es una planta dioica, es decir, que existe una planta femenina que produce frutos y una masculina que no los produce, y que en el ecosistema «aguajal» la densidad de árboles de aguaje varía de un 32 a un 57 por ciento de árboles femeninos y masculinos, respectivamente.

Alrededor de Iquitos y de las principales poblaciones de la Amazonía peruana, la tala está agotando las plantas femeninas, afectando económicamente a las comunidades que se dedican a esta actividad. Por ejemplo, en la comunidad de San Miguel que se encuentra a 20 minutos de Iquitos, el IIAP llevó a cabo un estudio para determinar la pérdida económica por extractivismo, haciendo mediciones en diferentes épocas. La primera en 1994 cuando encontró fructificando 62 árboles por hectárea, lo que representaba aproximadamente 124 sacos de aguaje para comercializar que, al precio de 7 soles nuevos por saco

(NS 1 = 0,29 dólar EE.UU.), significa que se producía un ingreso de NS 868 por hectárea. El precio varía de NS 7 a NS 60, dependiendo de la estación y de la variedad. La segunda evaluación se realizó en el 2000, encontrándose fructificando 29 árboles por hectárea, lo que representa aproximadamente 58 sacos por hectárea para comercializar que, a un precio de NS 7 por saco, representa un ingreso de NS 464 por hectárea.

Entre 1994 y 2000 ha habido una pérdida en ingresos económicos del orden de 53,5 por ciento para la comunidad que se dedica a esta actividad en esa zona. Ante esta situación es conveniente que el Estado peruano y la comunidad amazónica se decidan a emprender acciones inmediatas para aprovechar en forma sostenible un recurso tan valioso como el aguaje, las mismas que deberían estar orientadas hacia la industrialización del recurso con el máximo valor agregado y al manejo adecuado durante la cosecha.

Para más información, dirigirse a:
Alberto García Mauricio, Programa
de Ecosistemas Terrestres del IIAP,
Av. Abelardo Quiñones Km. 2,5,
Iquitos, Perú.
Fax: +51 065 265527;
correo electrónico: [email protected];


Bamboo sector development as a means for sustaining forest livelihoods

Bamboo has always been a vital part of the livelihood of millions of forest-dwelling people in tropical regions. Traditionally, bamboo is harvested in the natural forest and its use is limited to temporal constructions and low-quality utensils prone to rapid decay. Nevertheless, resource management and technical improvements can convert this fast-growing grass into a durable raw material for construction purposes and a wide range of semi-industrialized products. New industrial applications and modern construction design have both demonstrated bamboo’s huge potential, but the bamboo sector in China is the only one reported to be thriving. In the last 20 years China has established an integrated production chain of bamboo plantations, semi-processing and industrial plants manufacturing bamboo flooring, furniture, furnishings, charcoal and fresh bamboo shoots for the domestic and export markets.

There are promising trends outside China where bamboo is being grown as a durable building material and income-generating resource for rural people. The Philippines has a rural bamboo handicraft sector that has been able to reach European and United States markets after investments in improved designs. In rural areas, bamboo harvesters and artisans acquire an important part of their income from bamboo. Moreover, in Colombia and Ecuador growing bamboo on small plots is becoming a lucrative option for smallholders and the bamboo construction sector is experiencing a boom period after years of neglect.

However, the bamboo sector is, in most countries, still part of the informal and backward rural economy and seemingly unable to grab the large potential represented by the Chinese bamboo industry. This raises the question of the bottlenecks facing bamboo development. Many of these inhibiting factors are at the policy level and are additional to a lack of knowledge among the important stakeholders and a widespread stigma of bamboo as a poor person’s timber. Convincing and informing users and policy-makers of bamboo’s versatility may fit in with a strategy of poverty alleviation and reducing pressure on tropical forests. Smallholders at the forest fringe can, in particular, improve their livelihood by processing bamboo or growing it in their backyard. At the same time, a large stock of bamboo contributes to broader environmental goals of erosion control, reforestation and watershed management.

For tropical countries confronted with rural poverty and shrinking forests, bamboo offers a sustainable option with considerable potential. However, it will require joint efforts by the international donor community, research institutes, national governments and pioneer investors to duplicate China’s bamboo boom and turn the belief that bamboo may become the timber of the twenty-first century into a reality. (Source: Dr Herwig M. Cleuren, INBAR in ETFRN News, 39/40.)

Innovative bamboo products

The bamboo industry in China is showing more and more potential. The annual production value is more than US$40 billion and its annual export value more than US$600 million. There are more new bamboo products in China nowadays, for example, bamboo extracts for beer, beverages, medicine and cosmetics. Other innovative bamboo products developed in recent years include bamboo veneer, bamboo fire-proof ceiling material, and bamboo fibre and its fabric.

(Contributed by: Fu Jinhe, Ph.D., Program Officer, International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), Beijing, China.)

Bamboo fibre and its fabric

Bamboo fibre is made from the bamboo cellulose of natural bamboo and is produced through processing methods such as steaming and boiling. The fibre does not contain any chemical additives and is a genuinely environment-friendly product. The fibre’s gloss is bright and beautiful. At the same time, the fibre has a unique antibacterial and deodorizing function, a fine colour, elasticity, wearability, etc. In addition, it is especially moisture absorbent and permits ventilation owing to the bamboo fibre’s horizontal cross-section. Wearing bamboo fibre fabric in hot summers makes one feel especially cool, owing to the fibre’s special structure and natural “hollows” in the horizontal cross-sections. For this reason experts refer to it as a “breathing” fabric. At the same time, it is soft to touch and easy to wear and is used for knitted underwear, T-shirts, machine-woven bedclothes, etc.

Green gold: the United States is bamboo’s next new frontier

President Forman of Lake Mary-based CMI Global was searching for investment alternatives for his firm, a consultant to other companies wanting to do business in China. To that end, he travelled to Nanjing University with Dr Zhang Min, a renowned bamboo expert. Min showed him 30 years of research on bamboo, and Forman was sold.

Now the owner of two bamboo manufacturing plants in China, Forman plans to enter the United States market with more than 20 bamboo products, ranging from lotions, soaps and disinfectants to mattress and pillow covers to flower-preserving extracts, water purifiers and pain relievers.

Forman’s will be the first company to offer this range of bamboo products in the United States. Outside the United States, bamboo enjoys a large and rapidly growing market. According to a recent study, China sells US$2.4 billion in bamboo products each year, of which exports total US$600 million. The Philippines has also taken an interest in bamboo products, as has the Republic of Korea. Malaysia has recently begun looking to bamboo as both a cash crop and a means to alleviate environmental concerns: the fast-growing plant can be used to reforest areas scoured by logging.

In fact, bamboo is considered to be one of the fastest-growing plants in the world, thriving in rich and sandy soils alike. It is also a potential source for a variety of products. Min, now Forman’s partner, has tabulated 50, including medicinal uses long recognized in oriental medicine. Furthermore, according to CMI Global, there is potential for other products yet to be discovered.

The manufacturing muscle behind the United States retailing expansion lies in two factories: a 4 200 m2 factory in Nanjing that does research on and development of bamboo by-products, and a 7 600 m2 factory on the outskirts of Shanghai that processes bamboo. This factory has supplied bamboo products to Japan, a major market for bamboo, for more than 20 years. CMI’s wholly owned subsidiary, Yupong International, owns the factories which were purchased for US$3 million and oversees operations. Currently, Yupong deals in more than US$5 million in sales in Japan.

In 2003, Forman expects more than US$45 million in sales from bamboo, mostly in exports, bringing projections for CMI Global’s total sales in 2003 to US$90 million, more than doubling 2002 revenue. Forman says he hopes to enter the European and possibly the Latin America markets eventually. (For the full story, please see: (Source: Extracted from an article by Jill Krueger in Orlando Business Journal, 24 March 2003.)

Utilization of bamboo in Bolivia

Bamboo is an everlasting, fast-growing plant. In addition, it is a flexible and cheap construction material that allows easy development or repair. “Takuara” is the local name for the native American guadua bamboo species growing in the Bolivian lowlands. This bamboo offers solutions to the housing deficit in Santa Cruz, without compromising its harmonious and aesthetic architecture.

A working group was organized under the name of “Takuara” in Santa Cruz with the objective of promoting the use of bamboo in the region as an alternative construction material and promoting construction skills using bamboo through short training programmes. Construction using the cheap and available bamboo resources reduces the costs of material, transport and labour, and presents an important advantage compared with current concepts of social housing and construction materials in Bolivia.

Another objective of the Takuara working group is to stimulate the use and culture of bamboo as a sustainable and renewable resource, aiming at environmental protection and improving people’s quality of life. To this end, Takuara promotes and demonstrates the wide range of bamboo uses in construction, as well as in all kinds of furniture and handicraft manufacture.

Thanks to support from INBAR, Takuara-Bolivia was able to present its work and mission at the First Bolivian Forest Fair (EXPOFOREST) held in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, in February 2003. (Source: INBAR News Magazine, June 2003.)

Bamboo in Bangladesh

Approximately 90 percent of all bamboo harvested in Bangladesh is used for building construction, such as house posts, purlins, rafters, bamboo walling, ceiling and roofing material. (Source: MFP News, Vol. XIII, No. 4, 2003.)

Manejo biotecnológico de bambúes en Cuba

Los bambúes son de vital importancia para los programas de construcción y de fabricación de muebles, entre otras aplicaciones. La Guadua angustifolia es un bambú originario del Ecuador y Colombia que posee características particulares, como la resistencia a algunas plagas y enfermedades y el rápido crecimiento, que lo hace interesante para los programas de reforestación.

La construcción de 1 000 casas de bambú anualmente, con material proveniente de 60 hectáreas de una plantación equivale a la madera de 500 hectáreas de valiosos árboles tropicales. La regeneración natural de esta especie ocurre estacionalmente por medio de semillas y de manera asexual por la activación de las yemas del rizoma. Estas vías de propagación resultan limitadas, más aún cuando se desea introducir la especie en un plan de producción en gran escala. Una alternativa a la propagación vegetativa es la de la regeneración y multiplicación de plantas in vitro. Esta técnica ha sido utilizada para la propagación de otras especies de bambú, utilizando callos derivados de primordios foliares de ápices, de semillas maduras y de hojas inmaduras.

El objetivo de un reciente trabajo llevado a cabo por el Laboratorio de Células y Tejidos del Centro de Bioplantas de la Universidad de Ciego de Ávila en Cuba, fue el de lograr la inducción de callos derivados de tejidos vegetativos de Guadua y Dendrocalamus, así como el establecimiento de yemas, con vistas a establecer un protocolo de propagación in vitro.

El estudio incluye los siguientes temas:

• inducción de callos en segmentos de tejido intercalar de Guadua angustifolia;

• evaluación de diferentes concentraciones de cefotaxima en el pretratamiento de estacas para el establecimiento de yemas de Guadua angustifolia; y

• evaluación de diferentes concentraciones de cefotaxima en el establecimiento de yemas de Guadua angustifolia.

Para la inducción de callos se utilizaron segmentos de tejido intercalar de ramas jóvenes que se desechaban durante el establecimiento de las yemas, siguiendo un protocolo de desinfección con 0,2 por ciento de bicloruro de mercurio durante 10 minutos y enjuagues con agua destilada estéril e implantación en medios de cultivo Murashige y Skoog. Para el establecimiento de yemas, el procedimiento de desinfección fue similar al anterior, pero antes del tratamiento con bicloruro de mercurio las estacas se sumergieron en una solución de cefotaxima a 50 mg por litro, durante diferentes tiempos, para ser luego desinfectadas e implantadas en un medio de cultivo Murashige y Skoog.

Para más información, dirigirse a:
Marcos Daquinta, Alexis Gregori, Mariela Cid y Yarianne Lezcano, Laboratorio de Células y Tejidos, Centro de Bioplantas, Universidad de Ciego de Ávila, Carretera a Morón
Km. 9, CP 69450, Cuba.
Correo electrónico: [email protected]

Participatory development with bamboo in the Andean countries

The European Community represented by the Commission of the European Communities has approved a proposal from INBAR for participatory development of a replicable model for bamboo-based development in the Andean countries. The project began in mid-2003.

The project rationale is that poor farmers in Andean countries do not benefit from the income opportunities that the native guadua bamboo can offer. Farmers have access to bamboo resources, but lack the skills and knowledge to use these for livelihood improvement. This project will develop a replicable model for the sustainable production and commercialization of bamboo products in order to alleviate rural poverty in the Andean countries. The pilot project is situated in the coastal region of Ecuador and has as a main objective to improve farmers’ income with guadua bamboo and to reduce pressure on the forest. The project area is an example of a rapidly deteriorating forest situation endangering the unique tropical forest biodiversity.

Project activities will address all the major components of the bamboo production-to-consumption chain. It will improve resource management, train people in better processing techniques, explore and create market outlets, and promote linkages between small-scale producers and the private industry. Although the project is based in Ecuador, it will network closely with Peru, Bolivia and other Andean countries. (Source: INBAR News Magazine, June 2003.)


Bushmeat hunters deplete Africa’s forests

Bushmeat hunters, in forests throughout Central and West Africa, have hunted virtually every type of wild animal, frequently illegally, for use as food.

Reports indicated that deep in the tropical forest of the Congo River Basin, immense sapelli and okoum trees tower over the forest floor, and small antelopes called duikers plunge through the undergrowth, while the calls of bonobos and sooty mangabeys sound from the leafy canopy.

But while indigenous peoples such as the Bantu pygmies have sustainably hunted this bushmeat for centuries, the level of hunting has skyrocketed in the past two decades. Today, species ranging from cane rats to elephants are being hunted at unprecedented levels, and recent estimates suggest a bushmeat harvest of between 1 million and 5 million tonnes each year, a level that is literally emptying forests of wildlife. The situation is most dire for primates such as bonobos, chimpanzees and gorillas.

“As a group, great apes tend to be very much at risk because they breed so slowly,” said Elizabeth Bennett, director of the hunting and wildlife trade programme at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

To be hunted sustainably, some ape species could lose no more than one member per square kilometre every 20 years, but bushmeat hunters are annually killing 6 000 western lowland gorillas (from a total population of less than 100 000) along with 15 000 chimpanzees. Smaller primates end up on the table too, with approximately 7.5 million red colobus monkeys being killed for food each year. In addition, WCS estimates that 28 million bay duikers are killed annually, as are 16 million blue duikers. “And these are conservative figures.”

The problem has reached such tremendous proportions that last summer, at a meeting of experts on gorillas in Germany, scientists from WCS and other institutions said that poaching had surpassed habitat loss as the most immediate threat facing western lowland gorillas and could lead to their extinction in the next 20 years.

At the root of the problem is a growing human population and a tumultuous economy. Today more than 30 million people live within forested regions of Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and other Central African nations, and these inhabitants eat about the same amount of meat each year as most North Americans. More than 60 percent of the meat comes from local wildlife.

Until recently, much of the forest was inaccessible to hunters. This changed in the 1980s when international logging companies expanded into Central African forests. Roads were built to accommodate logging trucks, carving the forest into easily traversed parcels. Armies of workers followed, many bringing their families, and almost overnight formerly pristine areas were flooded with people.

“Areas that had previously been unexploited and unpopulated are suddenly inundated, and every worker may bring eight or ten individuals who are dependent on that salary,” said Heather Eves, director of the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force (BCTF), a consortium of more than 30 organizations and institutions formed in 1999 to address the looming problem. “This brings lots of people together who need to be fed, and the forests just open up.”

Logging roads have also allowed the influx of shotguns and steel cable for snares and have enabled hunters to carry more carcasses out of the forest. As a result, a burgeoning commercial bushmeat market now stretches far beyond the Congo Basin.

Eves added that bushmeat has always been a commodity in this region, used at varying levels of trade, but wildlife is now being exploited for export to urban centres. The reason for this is economic: bushmeat hunters can earn the equivalent of US$300 to $1 000 per year, more than the region’s average household income. The hunters find eager buyers in large cities, where many inhabitants purchase the meat as a way to reconnect to their village origins or to show off their newly acquired wealth. In Libreville, the Gabonese capital, around 1 200 tonnes of bushmeat arrives in the markets daily, and in Pointe Noire, the second-largest city of the Congo, an estimated total of 150 000 tonnes is consumed each year.

And the markets are not limited to Africa. In 2001, two London shopkeepers were jailed for operating a business that sold meat from monkeys, anteaters and other animals. They had offered to custom-order whole lions for around US$8 000 each.

In addition to the obvious loss of prey species, the bushmeat trade has far-reaching consequences. According to the Central African Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE), the bushmeat trade threatens forest carnivores such as leopards and crowned eagles by depleting their main prey species. The forest itself is threatened as well, in that the loss of seed-dispersing animals is permanently changing the forest’s composition and structure.

Indigenous pygmies are losing the forests and animals they have depended on for centuries. And even the bushmeat hunters and consumers are at risk: according to BCTF, the hunting, butchering and consumption of bushmeat, especially primates, is placing people at increased risk of contracting virulent animal-borne diseases. Ebola outbreaks have been linked to exposure to gorilla carcasses, and evidence of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection has been found in 26 different species of primates, including chimpanzees and sooty mangabeys, which many researchers believe may be a link to HIV/AIDS.

Despite the severity of the problem, some remedial steps are showing signs of success. In northern Congo, WCS has been working with the Ministry of Forestry Economy and a logging company, Congolaise Industrielle des Bois (CIB), to reduce bushmeat hunting in a 1.8-million-hectare logging concession. The project supplies forest workers with alternative forms of protein and provides for enforcement by groups of local “ecoguards” who control traffic on logging roads. “This ensures that protected animals aren’t being hunted,” said Bennett. “Gorillas and chimps are now easier to see in the concession.”

But to reduce bushmeat hunting significantly, many groups are taking the message directly to the consumers. Last year in Ghana, Conservation International undertook a national bushmeat education campaign that BCTF says has been very effective in changing behaviours. “People have an incredibly deep cultural link with wildlife in Africa,” Eves said. “Talking about bushmeat as a loss of cultural heritage resonates there.”

Until these changes become widespread, however, sections of the Congo Basin continue to be identified as suffering from “empty forest syndrome”, filled with trees but devoid of large animals. It is a new situation, but one that has become disturbingly familiar. (Source: This Day [Lagos], 23 April 2003.)

Cameroon demands bushmeat action

The rate at which Africa is devouring its wildlife is entirely unsustainable, says Cameroon’s environment minister. He is demanding international action to control the trade, which produces as much as5 million tonnes of bushmeat from the Congo Basin alone every year. The trade threatens the survival of several already endangered species, including elephants and great apes.

The minister, Chief Clarkson Oben Tanyi-Mbianyor, was visiting London to address a Bushmeat Campaign conference. The campaign says that Mr Tanyi’s call for international cooperation is the first time any African leader has made such a proposal. The aim of the conference is to secure agreement on how to tackle the unsustainable bushmeat trade, in which London plays a prominent part.

While deliberations at the Bushmeat and Forest Actions for Sustainable Management Conference were taking place in London, the Yaoundé Court of First Instance slammed a one-month prison sentence and a fine of CFAF 300 000 on two illegal dealers in elephant products, bringing the number of wildlife criminals jailed since July 2003 to four. This is part of an operation being undertaken by the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry in collaboration with the forces of law and order and the Last Great Apes Organisation (LAGA).

According to Cameroonian law, any person found in possession of live or part of protected animal species is liable to a fine and imprisonment. The law targets only protected wildlife species (gorillas, chimpanzees, crocodiles, elephants, drills, etc.). It attacks the trade chain of protected species in different places. Anyone breaking the new law in Cameroon, where bushmeat is a prized delicacy for rich city-dwellers, faces three years in jail and a CFAF 10 million fine. The ministry authorities have been calling on restaurant dealers to help save protected wildlife by taking gorillas, chimpanzees and elephant meat off their menus.

About 100 years ago, more than a million chimpanzees lived in 25 African countries. Today, fewer than 150 000 remain, with healthy reproduction populations found only in six African countries.

(Source: Cameroon Tribune [Yaoundé], 31 December 2003.)

Other speakers included Ghana’s Minister for Lands and Forests, Dominic Fobih, the Okyenhene (tribal king) of Akyem Abuakwa in eastern Ghana, United Kingdom Minister for International Development, Gareth Thomas, MP, and representatives of the timber trade.

Mr Tanyi told BBC News Online: “What we are saying is that we cannot go on selling bushmeat, because people believe in looking after the environment. It’s n ot local consumption that’s the problem, but the wider trade, taking the meat into the towns and out of the country. So we’re calling on our partners to fight the trade by helping us to recruit and train ecoguards, and by providing local people with alternative ways of earning a living that will keep them out of the forest. Some of these forest concessions can be up to 70 000 ha in size, so the guards will need to be able to communicate with each other. We’re hoping other countries will help us to equip them. This is in the context of Cameroon itself. But I am also speaking in a wider context, about the need to fight the bushmeat trade across West and Central Africa. And I’ll be asking Mr Thomas for his help in stamping it out in the United Kingdom. But the best way to tackle it is to fight it at source, and keep the animals in the forest.”

Adam Matthews, the Bushmeat Campaign’s director, is hoping Mr Thomas will spell out how the United Kingdom Department for International Development plans to implement the conclusions of a recent study it carried out on the links between wildlife and poverty. Mr Matthews told BBC News Online: “That study said 150 million people – one in eight of the world’s poor – depend on wildlife for both protein and income. The report’s recommendations were excellent, but we have yet to see any move towards carrying them out. I hope the United Kingdom will incorporate wildlife into its poverty strategies.”

Some zoologists believe the bushmeat trade is so important to people’s survival that it would be better to try to control it than to stamp it out. They say it may be possible to tell when large species such as apes are reaching a dangerous point by seeing when smaller animals such as cane rats enter the market. The smaller species tend to do so just before the flagship animals reach crisis point, and this could serve as a warning mechanism. (Source: BBC News Online, 15 December 2003

[Please see under News and Notes for more information on DFID’s wildlife and poverty study.]

Bushmeat consumption in Ghana

Since Ghana held a national conference on the bushmeat crisis in August 2002, Ghanaians have been made more aware of the threatened state of some creatures in their forests.

It is believed that with this knowledge Ghanaians have become more selective in their consumption of bushmeat. To help sensitize Ghanaians further on the animals, reptiles and birds faced with the danger of extinction, Environmental Watch would begin write-ups on these endangered species, courtesy of a document entitled Endangered bushmeat species in Ghana, produced by Conservation International-Ghana.

The creatures are categorized as Endangered (EN), Critically endangered (CE), Vulnerable (V) and Data deficient (DD). Environmental Watch begins the write-ups with the more than 40 globally threatened species of mammals, fishes and birds that can be found in Ghana. (Source: The Independent [Accra], 16 June 2003.)

Illicit trade in bushmeat in Kenya

Unauthorized trade in game meat is reportedly the second largest illegal business in the world after drug trafficking. With populations of animals having been decimated in West and Central Africa, the focus is now turning to Kenya. Ian Saunders of the African Environmental Film Foundation made this revelation during a talk in Nairobi on the “Bushmeat Crisis” in Kenya, which was hosted by the Kenya Wildlife Coalition (KWC).

Mr Saunders wants Kenyans to be sensitized on the illegal bushmeat business. “When one talks of the illegal bushmeat trade, it is the countries of West and Central Africa that immediately spring to mind. But it is these countries and those further afield that pose an external threat to one of Kenya’s greatest natural resources: wildlife.”

According to an Irish non-governmental organization (NGO), the illegal global bushmeat trade is worth more than US$5.5 billion a year. The meat is smuggled from Africa to various destinations in Europe and the United States. Mr Saunders fears that countries such as Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire could soon become like Nigeria, where the numbers of game become very low and warns that the eyes of the cartels will turn to other countries such as Kenya to supply the massive demand.

The conservationist says bushmeat is probably already being exported from Kenya. According to Mr Saunders, gangs or cartels operate from Nigeria and Ghana. In 2001, two West Africans were jailed in the United Kingdom for smuggling and illegally selling endangered species and bushmeat in London’s Dalston Market. Their market is thought to be primarily African expatriates in the United Kingdom. British police uncovered more than 2 tonnes of bushmeat.

The KWC is made up of several NGOs, including the African Environmental Film Foundation, the Born Free Foundation, the East African Wildlife Society, Youth for Conservation, Friends of Conservation, Pan African Conservation Network and the Bill Woodley Mount Kenya Trust.

But just what exactly is bushmeat? According to a recent rapid survey (as opposed to a full scientific study) carried out by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), bushmeat is the term used to refer to meat from both the small and large wildlife species. These include rodents, birds, duikers, bush pigs, impala, gazelles, elephant and buffalo. According to the IFAW survey, over time the hunting of these wildlife species for commercial and domestic purposes has been on the rise. The survey concludes that this fact, coupled with deforestation and interference with nature, poses a grave danger to wildlife.

The IFAW survey was meant to establish the extent of bushmeat consumption in Kenya. Like IFAW, other conservationists believe that one of the main causes of declining animal populations in much of Africa is this illicit trade.

Some participants argued that unless benefits to landholders were increased, and proceeds from wildlife used in community development, the animals would continue to be seen as a freely exploitable and uncared-for resource that benefits only those who get to it first.

Historically, in the East African region, bushmeat has been seen purely as a subsistence activity undertaken by traditional hunter/gatherer societies. The increasing human population, acute poverty and widespread unemployment, however, have led to a greater reliance on natural resources.

Bushmeat is in demand because it is generally cheaper than domestic meat. In various surveys, it was found that affordability was the main reason why rural households cited bushmeat as the most important meat protein source. The larger species are generally preferred owing to the greater quantities of meat per carcass.

In addition, respondents in many areas surveyed showed a preference for their taste. With declining wildlife numbers, a hunter’s catch per effort has reduced in most survey areas. Profit motives and the increased value of bushmeat have led hunters to continue supply although the hunting effort required is now far greater. To improve catch per effort, more sophisticated and unsustainable hunting methods are used such as wire snaring, night torch hunting, and the use of semi-automatic weapons.

According to a report by the NGO Trade Records Analysis of Flora and Fauna in Commerce (TRAFFIC), the year-round demand for bushmeat has resulted in the gradual erosion of traditional hunting seasons. Increased numbers of hunters and traders that rely on bushmeat revenues have led them to hunt and trade for longer periods of the year. The Youth for Conservation group, working in tandem with the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, have carried out research on snares and other hunting techniques. Speaking at the KWC gathering, the youth group programme officer, Steve Itela, said that these devices of death are largely non-selective, explaining that a wire snare set for a small antelope could also cause the slow and agonizing death of an elephant. He added that whereas this traditional form of hunting used to be for the subsistence of impoverished families, today it has become commercialized with bushmeat being sold regionally and also internationally. Youth for Conservation and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust de-snaring teams have removed 34 852 snares since 1999.

According to a survey by TRAFFIC, all hunters using snares reported a catch per effort of 1.539 kg per hour of effort, while a hunter using traditional traps reported a catch effort of 0.723 kg per hour of effort. Hunters using night torching (use of powerful lights to blind animals combined with ringing a bell) reported 1.198 kg per hour of hunting effort. (Source: The Nation [Nairobi], 26 October 2003.)

Wild meat, livelihoods security and conservation in the Tropics

The Bushmeat Project is the latest undertaking of the Forest Policy and Environment Group at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). The project is funded by a grant from the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, in the Conservation and Sustainable Development Area of its Program on Global Security and Sustainability. The project aims to research the livelihood dimensions of hunting for consumptive use in tropical forests, including bushmeat and the bushmeat trade, and offers a dissemination channel for innovative policy-relevant research.

To date, research on the bushmeat issue has mostly been driven by conservation priorities and livelihood concerns have tended to be secondary and contingent. But the importance of bushmeat in range state economies requires that policy development takes the human dimension fully into account.

The project provides an opportunity to explore the differences in perspective which arise when the human dimension is brought to the fore, and priority is given to livelihoods, economic and sociocultural concerns.

The project is pan-tropical in coverage, and will seek to identify possibilities for the sharing of experience, both intraregionally and across continents (Africa, Latin America-Caribbean, Asia-Pacific). The main, though not exclusive, emphasis will be on mammals in tropical moist forests, for it is here that the conservation challenges are greatest.

ODI is interested in publishing and disseminating innovative work on wildlife management issues, with a strong social and livelihood focus, and solicits contributions from professionals from the range states.

For more information, please contact:
Dr David Brown, Project Director, Overseas Development Institute,
111 Westminster Bridge Road,
London SE1 7JD, United Kingdom.
Fax: +44 20 79220399;
e-mail: [email protected] or [email protected];

Cupuaçu (theobroma grandiflorum)


Cupuaçu (Theobroma grandiflorum) is a small-to-medium tree in the rain forest canopy which belongs to the cocoa family and can reach up to 20 m in height. Cupuaçu fruit has been a primary food source in the rain forest for both indigenous peoples and animals alike. Cupuaçu fruit is known for its creamy exotic tasting pulp. The pulp is used throughout Brazil and Peru to make fresh juice, ice-cream, jam and tarts. The fruit ripens in the rainy months from January to April and is considered a culinary delicacy in South American cities where demand outstrips supply.

Indigenous peoples as well as local communities along the Amazon have cultivated cupuaçu as a primary food source for generations. In former times, cupuaçu seeds were traded along the Rio Negro and Upper Orinoco rivers where indigenous people drink cupuaçu juice after it has been blessed by a shaman to facilitate difficult births. The “beans” are utilized by the indigenous Tikuna people for abdominal pains.

Because of the close relationship to the cocoa tree (Theobroma cacao L.), in addition to pulp production the seeds of T. grandiflorum (about 20 percent of fresh weight) can be used for manufacturing chocolate-like foodstuffs. There are initiatives throughout Brazil to develop cupuaçu chocolate, also known in Brazil as “cupulate”.

In Japan this product is already being produced and commercialized. In the first quarter of 2002 alone, Amazonas state exported 50 tonnes of cupuaçu seeds to Japan. It is expected that the Japanese will buy approximately 200 tonnes of cupuaçu seeds for chocolate production next year. Once again, Brazil assumes the insignificant role of a supplier of raw material.

There is a series of patents on the extraction of the fat from the cupuaçu seeds and the production of cupuaçu chocolate. Almost all of them were registered by the company Asahi Foods Co. Ltd from Kyoto, Japan. Besides the patents, Asahi Foods has registered the plant name “Cupuaçu” as a trade mark for various product classes (including chocolate) in Japan, the European Union and in the United States. (For the complete story, please see:

Amazonia unites against biopiracy

The campaign against biopiracy in Amazonia, launched by the Acre-based non-governmental organization (NGO), has been joined by the Amazonian Working Group (AWG), which is composed of 513 local organizations. The campaign is a result of an attempt by Amazonlink to support a project by rural producers to export sweets made from cupuaçu to Germany. The organization discovered that the name “Cupuaçu” had been registered as a trade mark by the Japanese multinational company Asahi Foods in Japan, Europe and the United States. This means that Amazonlink cannot use the name cupuaçu on the packaging of its product even though it is a plant native to Amazonia. Asahi also holds patents on the manufacture of chocolate from cupuaçu seeds (cupulate) and the extraction of vegetable oils. (Source: Amazon Newsletter, 6 March 2003.)

NGOs try to stop cupuaçu patent in Europe

The European Patent Office is analysing an application from the Japanese multinational Asahi Foods to patent “the production and use of fat from cupuaçu seeds”. This would give the company the right to produce and commercialize cupulate, chocolate made from cupuaçu, explained Michael Schmidlehner, president of the NGO, which has been campaigning against cases of biopiracy involving cupuaçu, açai and other native Brazilian products.

Alongside German NGOs, has promised an offensive to stop the patenting process on the grounds that the request does not fulfil the basic legal requirements for a patent to be granted: the processing of cupuaçu is not a new technique. It has been used by traditional communities in Amazonia for hundreds of years. Furthermore, cupulate was not invented by Asahi Foods, but by the Brazilian agricultural research agency, EMBRAPA.

Asahi Foods does not currently hold any patents in relation to cupuaçu. It has registered “Cupuaçu” and “Cupulate” as trade marks in Europe, the United States and Japan, which theoretically prevents Brazilian companies from selling products made from cupuaçu on the international market. (Source: Carta Maior, in Amazon News, 2 October 2003.)

Guarana (paullinia cupana)


Guarana is a creeping shrub native to the Amazon (and particularly the regions of Manaus and Parintins). In the lushness of the Brazilian Amazon where it originates, it often grows to 12 m high. The fruit is small, round, bright-red in colour, and grows in clusters. As it ripens, the fruit splits and a black seed emerges – giving it the appearance of an “eye” about which Indians tell legends.

The uses of this plant by the Amerindians predates the discovery of Brazil. South American Indian tribes (especially the Guaranis, from whence the plant’s name is derived) dry and roast the seeds and mix them into a paste with water. They then use it in much the same way as chocolate – to prepare various foods, drinks and medicines. The rain forest tribes have used guarana mainly as a stimulant and astringent, and in treating chronic diarrhoea. Botanist James Duke cites past and present tribal uses in the rain forest: as a preventive for arteriosclerosis; as an effective cardiovascular drug; as an analgesic, astringent, febrifuge, stimulant and tonic used to treat diarrhoea; and for hypertension, migraine, neuralgia and dysentery.

Nowadays, guarana is taken on a daily basis as a health tonic by millions of Brazilians. Guarana has also been used as an ingredient in shampoos and in hair-loss treatments. In Peru, the seed is used widely for a variety of ailments.

Today the plant is known and used worldwide and is the main ingredient in the “national beverage” of Brazil, guarana soda. Eighty percent of the world’s commercial production of guarana paste is in the middle of the Amazon rain forest in northern Brazil – still performed by the Guarani Indians who wild-harvest the seeds and process them into paste by hand. The Brazilian Government has become aware of the importance of the local production of guarana by traditional methods employed by the indigenous inhabitants of the rain forest. Since 1980, the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) has set up a number of projects to improve the local production of guarana. Now, under the direction of the FUNAI regional authority in Manaus, many cooperatives in the rain forest support indigenous tribal economies through the harvesting and production of guarana.

While the Indians have been using guarana for centuries, Western science has been validating that the indigenous uses are well grounded. In 1989, a United States patent was filed on a guarana seed extract which was capable of inhibiting platelet aggregation in mammalian blood. A Brazilian research group has been studying guarana’s apparent effect of increasing memory, thought to be linked to the essential oils found in the seed. A United States patent has been filed on a combination of plants (including guarana) for promoting sustained energy and mental alertness “without nervousness or tension”. Guarana (often in combination with other plants) has also been found to facilitate weight loss.

Guarana’s good health benefits and its standing as a natural stimulant have caused its popularity to grow steadily worldwide. It can be found under many labels and as an ingredient in many herbal formulas, energy drinks and protein bars. Unfortunately, too many (unethical) manufacturers are simply adding the guarana name to their labels to capitalize on its popularity – and adding caffeine to their products instead.

The taste of guarana is distinctive and unique, and is the main reason for its success in Brazil as a soft drink. The main ingredient of guarana is guaranine, which is chemically identical to caffeine.

Guarana-based drinks are common in Brazil, but hard to find in most other countries. The success in Brazil was reason enough for Pepsi and Coca-Cola to start the production of their own guarana soda varieties. Pepsi tried to market “Josta” in the United States (and failed); Coca-Cola still sells “Kuat” in Brazil (with some success). In most cases, imitation brands still cannot compete with the original Brazilian brands. (Source:

The battle over Amazonia’s guarana

The dispute involves millionaire investments, spying and a true battle of words. The battleground is Amazonas state. At issue is the guarana fruit, discovered by indigenous people at the end of the eighteenth century and industrialized into a drink in 1900. On one side is Guarana Antarctica, of AmBev, which is proud of being “originally from Brazil” and which has, for more than 40 years, bought its seeds from small farmers in Maues, a city located about 260 km from Manaus and considered the birthplace of guarana. On the other side is Guarana Kuat, of Coca-Cola, which has just harvested (in the municipality of President Figueiredo, 120 km from Manaus) its first crop of guarana with plans to transform the region into the newest pole of this Amazonas’ fruit.

In its favour, AmBev has the tradition. Before the actual founding of Maues in 1798, the Satere-Mawe, an indigenous people in the region, discovered the fruit’s energetic ingredients. With the dried tongue of the pirarucu fish (Arapaima gigas), this indigenous people would scrape the trunk, extracting a powder which would then be mixed with water, a concoction that guaranteed improved results while hunting. In 1921, a chemist treated the fruit and was successful in making a drink that maintained the guarana flavour without its characteristic bitterness: Guarana Antarctica champagne.

Maues guarana, the Brazilian leader in production up until the 1980s, began to lose its productivity and the Bahia guarana plants assumed the leadership. One reason for this is time: the average age of Maues guarana plant is 40 years, with productivity beginning to decrease after 30 years. A bush native to Maues produces 80 g of seeds, whereas plants that have been genetically altered can increase production thirtyfold.

This reduced productivity is exactly what Coca-Cola wants to take advantage of in the attempt to valorize its own guarana, a plant that the corporation introduced three years ago. The crop is sown in the Jayoro Sugar Factory, which supplies all the sugar utilized by Coca-Cola in Brazil. Over five years, Coca-Cola has invested $R 10 million in research, planting, harvesting and improving the guarana plant. According to Coca-Cola, the technicians have reached an average production of 1 kg of seeds per bush. The altered plants are reproduced in a nursery that houses more than 180 000 shoots.

At the end of this year, Coca-Cola gathered its first guarana harvest: 40 tonnes of seeds extracted from 410 ha. By 2005, it hopes to be self-sufficient in its production and to increase production to 160 tonnes.

In addition, the multinational is also interested in commercializing the fruit for other purposes, for example, cremes, shampoos and even lipstick.

Perceiving Coca-Cola’s competitive advancing and the loss of productivity in Maues guarana, AmBev responded: it elaborated an investment plan of $R 61 million in diverse projects in the region up until 2013; additionally, it has created 12 development poles to offer assistance to the rural communities and to finance the expansion of guarana farming and the recovery of the Maues guarana plants.

At the centre of AmBev’s research is the Santa Helena Plantation, inaugurated in 1972 in Maues. AmBev’s agricultural engineer, Renato Cardoso Costa, Jr, explained that more than 280 000 shoots have been distributed, with an average of 1.5 kg of seeds per plant. In the distribution, the corporation faced strong resistance from the local farmers. “Some said that the plants that they cultivated were from the grandfather of the great-grandfather of the great-great-grandfather; so the modernization and technology’s incorporation had to be accompanied with a process of re-education and persuading the farmers,” explained Gileno Correia, the manager of the AmBev factory in Manaus.

Guarana is responsible for 25 percent of sodas in Brazil. According to an October report by the AC Nielsen consulting office, Guarana Antarctica controls 75 percent of the market, while Kuat maintains the other 25 percent. (Source: O Estado de S. Paulo, in Amazon News, 7 December 2003.)


Honey factory in Uganda

Beekeepers in Uganda will no longer have to hassle for the local market for their honey with the opening of a new honey processing plant in Kampala by the Mazima Group of companies next month. The plant, to cost U Sh 500 million, is under construction in Nalukolongo near Kampala and on completion will process honey from various parts of the country, for local consumption and export.

The Mazima Group’s managing director, Harshad Barot, said they were undertaking this venture to exploit the untapped value in organic honey that is plentiful in Uganda but not yet fully tapped. The Mazima Group is working together with the Uganda Beekeepers Association to provide materials and some financial assistance.
(Source: New Vision [Kampala], Uganda, 25 March 2003.)

Honey in Slovakia

Rich sources of bee forage allow efficient beekeeping in most areas of the country. The landscape in Slovakia is rugged – lowlands, hills and high mountain ranges lie close to each other. Therefore, Slovak honeys are usually mixed. In the southern part of Slovakia in the early spring beekeepers determine the survival of wintered colonies and observe their spring growth rates. These are dependent upon important early nectar and pollen sources, including fruit-trees and willows and oilseed rape. At the end of this initial season, Acacia is in bloom and during the summer, clover, seed crops and sunflower provide pollen and nectar.

In northern Slovakia, coniferous honeydew is found, especially on spruce and fir. This is the principal bee forage in the highlands and mountains of Slovakia. Other nectar sources in these places include bilberries, meadow flowers and raspberries, all of which are hardy in the cooler climate. Dark honeys produced from forest fir and spruce are of outstanding quality and are much sought after by international markets.

The long-term annual Slovakian honey yield is 12 to 15 kg per colony; however, top yields can surpass 80 kg per colony.

Honey is used by the beekeepers themselves, sold directly to consumers, or purchased by a number of companies and exported, mostly to European Union countries: 1 500 to 2 000 tonnes are exported annually, representing one third to one half of the total annual yield. Honey consumption in Slovakia is just 0.25 kg per capita. It is marketed in a variety of ways – cakes, nuts with honey, mead.

Venom and royal jelly were used as additives in famous pharmaceutical products, but owing to the low prices of these raw materials on the global market, beekeepers are no longer motivated to produce them. (Source: Extracted from “Zoom in on Slovakia” in Bees for Development Journal, September 2003.)

Beekeeping in rural development

Two weeks of lectures at the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom, followed by two weeks of practical experience with tropical bees in the United Republic of Tanzania at Njiro Wildlife Research Centre, Serengeti Wildlife Research Institute.

For more information, please contact:
Bees for Development, Troy, Monmouth, NP25 4AB, UK.
Fax: +44 16007 16167;
e-mail: [email protected];

Indigenous communities begin to produce honey in Mato Grosso, Brazil

The honey produced in the Xingu region is now being sold outside the state. This month, the indigenous communities will send a shipment of honey to three São Paulo supermarkets. They are negotiating with the Pão de Açúcar supermarket chain, which has shops in 12 Brazilian states and which could open the door to the international market. The communities currently produce 1 500 kg of honey per month, and are beginning to increase production.

The product has strong commercial appeal as it is produced by Indians. The honey has organic certification from the Biodynamic Institute. The certificate is only awarded to products produced by sustainable practices which do not harm the environment. The honey is the first indigenous product to receive a Federal Inspection Seal from the Ministry of Agriculture, which means that the honey is produced in accordance with health and safety legislation. The seal authorizes the sale of the honey in other states. (Source: Gazeta de Cuiabá, in Amazon News, 17 July 2003.)


Lac-based livelihood in Orissa, India

Lac is the encrusted secretion of an insect, Laccifer lacca. This insect grows on some suitable trees from which it consumes the sap as its food and produces a fluid that envelops its body as a protective cover. This fluid, when hardened, becomes the resin that is known as lac. Brood lac is the twig of the host tree carrying lac encrustation.

Gone are the days of gramophone records and so also the days of their basic raw material, lac. The advent of synthetic substitutes and degeneration of age-old practices have badly damaged the regime of this non-timber forest product, thus affecting the livelihoods of the people traditionally dependent on it.

This tiny insect completes two life cycles in a year, but in certain cases there may be three cycles in 12 or 13 months. The number of lac crops per year varies according to the number of life cycles; there are usually two crops harvested in a year from a single host tree.

The female insects secrete most of the lac fluid. The quality of this fluid may vary according to the nature of the host tree. Other factors that affect the quality and quantity of production include climatic conditions (e.g. above 20°C facilitates the activity of lac insects), protection from pests and predators and soil characteristics (that affect the growth of the host trees).

Wild lac grows by itself in the forest with little or no human intervention. With cultivated lac, there is a possibility of controlling the quality as well as the quantity of the product, which is not possible with the wild variety.

Two different strains of the lac insect have been identified: “kusumi” and “rangini”. The kusumi strain, which produces the best quality of lac, grows better on such trees as kusum (Schleichera oleosa) and khair (Acacia catechu). The rangini strain prefers trees like palas (Butea monosperma). Host trees for the kusumi strain are significantly fewer in number than those for the rangini strain and thus the production of kusumi lac is also less than that of the rangini lac in India.

Kusumi lac has a number of advantages over the rangini variety: it is comparatively heavier and harder and best suited for artistic work. However, for dyeing and similar uses, rangini lac is said to be preferable.

In some forest areas near the coast, climatic conditions sometimes facilitate the production of three crops a year, but the encrustation in each crop is reportedly thinner.

Traditional uses of lac include making bangles and lacquerware and as a source of dye. There may also be therapeutic applications, with scientists confirming its antibacterial properties. Modern applications of this resinous substance and its derivatives are found in the plastic, leather, electrical, adhesive, wood finishing and hat industries.

Indian lac dominated the world market for many years until 1950, when production in Thailand increased significantly and gained a major share of the lac market. Development of synthetic substitutes has also affected the lac market badly. However, almost 85 percent of the lac produced in India is exported.
(Source: Banabarata, Issues II & III, 2002-2003

[Please see Vasunhara in News and Notes for more information.]

Medicinal plants

Herbal medicine boom “threatens plants”

If the huge boom in herbal medicine continues unchecked, up to a fifth of the plant species on which the industry depends could disappear, according to new reports. This could in turn jeopardize the health and livelihoods of the poor in India and China who harvest them.

Studies are showing that the industry – which fuels a world market worth US$20 billion – largely fails to ensure its raw material is harvested sustainably. The conservation group Plantlife International published a report that reveals an uncertain future for many of the wild plants.

One species highlighted by Plantlife as being under threat is tetu lakha (Nothatodytes foetida), a small tree found in the rain forests in South India and Sri Lanka and used for anti-cancer drugs in Europe. Others include a saw-wort known as costus or kusta (Saussurea lappa) from India whose root is used for chronic skin disorders, and the tendrilled fritillary (Fritillaria cirrhosa) from Sichuan, China, used to treat respiratory infections.

The market for African cherry (Prunus africana), the bark of which is popular in Europe as a treatment for prostate enlargement, has collapsed because too many trees have been destroyed. In the past the trees, which grow in Africa’s mountain regions, survived because traditionally less than half of their bark was harvested. But according to a recent study by Kristine Stewart, from consultants Keith and Schnars in Florida, growing commercial pressures have led to whole forests being stripped or felled. Exports of dried bark halved between 1997 and 2000 and the main exporter, Plantecam, had to close its extraction factory in Cameroon.

In its report, Plantlife urges the industry to invest in cultivation. It also proposes the introduction of a kite mark to identify products that have been sustainably harvested.

Some experts say Plantlife’s criticism is too conservative. Only a concerted effort by herbal practitioners, environmental groups and the industry itself can, they say, turn the tide.

(For the full story, please see: (Source:, 9 January 2004.)

European Union to promote plant sustainability

European companies and researchers should share the profits made on products using exotic plants such as ginseng and green tea with the countries of origin, urges a European Commission (EC) communication issued on Friday.

The statement, which encourages “international solidarity”, follows a new report from the United Kingdom’s Plantlife International that shows many wild plants are under threat of extinction from the booming herbal medicine industry. This in turn threatens the livelihoods of numerous populations, mainly in developing countries.

The use of exotic plants such as Aloe vera, ginseng, green tea and jojoba oil is widespread in the European Union (EU), particularly in cosmetics, but there is also a growing demand for extracts of these plants in dietary supplements and functional foods. The EC urges companies and research institutes not to take genetic resources from other countries – usually developing countries that are rich in biodiversity – without their consent.

Genetic resources, defined by the EC as materials of plant, animal or microbial origin, are usually found in the Southern Hemisphere, mostly in Latin America, Southeast Asia, Oceania and Africa.

The communication suggests that companies and research institutions use standard agreements with the providers of genetic resources, such as governments or local populations, which set out terms and conditions under which the plants could be used and how the benefits from their use should be shared. All users of genetic resources are also encouraged to develop their own codes of conduct as a means of respecting the 1992 United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Bonn Guidelines on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) adopted under the Convention in 2002.

Europe will also take measures to raise users’ awareness of their obligations under the United Nations agreements, said the communication, such as creating a European network to provide information on international and European laws on access and benefit sharing.

It also opens the debate on the introduction into EU law of a requirement for patent applicants to reveal where they got their genetic resources from and if they made use of the “traditional knowledge” of indigenous peoples or local populations.

The Council of Ministers and the European Parliament have been invited to give their views on the proposals and the public will also be consulted before further steps are taken on the proposals. (For the full story, please see: (Source: Beverage Daily, 12 January 2004 in BIO-IPR [email protected].)

Medicinal plants: chainsaws in the drugstore

Medicinal plants are used by a surprisingly high percentage of the world’s population. This is partly for cultural reasons and partly because they tend to be cheaper than drugs made by big companies. People also use plants to cure problems Western medicine still cannot solve.

Many medicinal plants are readily available. Women grow them in their gardens or they grow naturally all around. However, some key plants are becoming scarce owing to logging, overharvesting and deforestation, which has put many families’ health at risk.

For nearly a decade, Patricia Shanley from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and Leda Luz from the State Forestry Institute in Minas Gerais, Brazil have been studying this problem in the Amazon. Their results, presented in “The impacts of forest degradation on medicinal plant use and implications for health care in eastern Amazonia” in Bioscience, are hardly reassuring.

The authors focus on the Amazon city of Belém and find that most of its 1.7 million inhabitants use medicinal plants to treat a wide range of ailments. The city’s markets, shops, pharmacies, petrol stations and curbside vendors sell more than 200 different plants, of which about half grow naturally in the Amazon. The main downtown outlets alone make more than one million sales each year, generating several million dollars, and sales are growing fast. Some plants are just sold unprocessed, but there is also a growing variety of capsules, powders, liquid medications and shampoos.

Of the 12 top-selling medicinal plants in Belém, eight come from forests. Logging companies use five of these trees for timber which has depleted their supply. Many important medicinal tree species are particularly vulnerable to logging because they grow slowly and occur in low densities. Fewer trees mean less access for the rural poor and higher prices for medicinal tree barks, roots and oils. That has made sick people’s lives much harder.

Politicians always like to talk about health care because they know it affects all of us. But they pay too much attention to white coats and high-priced drugs and not enough to the plants that so many people turn to when they get ill. To get the chainsaws out of our drugstores, that has got to change. (To request a free electronic copy of this report in pdf or Word format, write to Titin Suhartini [email protected]; to send comments or queries to the authors, write to Patricia Shanley [email protected].) (Source: David Kaimowitz, Polex, CIFOR, 30 June 2003.)

Guidelines on the Conservation of Medicinal Plants

At a meeting in 2003 organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-UK and WWF/TRAFFIC-Germany, representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Conservation Union (IUCN), Trade Records Analysis of Flora and Fauna in Commerce (TRAFFIC) and WWF discussed the need to revise the 1993 Guidelines on the Conservation of Medicinal Plants. These are global guidelines that were published by WHO, IUCN and WWF following the historic 1988 Chiang Mai Declaration “Saving Lives by Saving Plants”.

All participants recommended the revision of the 1993 guidelines in the light of significant new developments in the field of medicinal plant conservation and use over the past decade (e.g. community involvement in conservation, incentive-based approaches/certification). The usefulness of an up-to-date global framework document was strongly highlighted. Apart from governments and non-governmental organizations, a new key audience for the revised guidelines will be the commercial sector (e.g. herbal medicine industry, traders). This sector can contribute significantly to conservation and sustainable use of medicinal plants through socially and environmentally sound sourcing practices.

To achieve maximum buy-in, the revised guidelines will be developed through a global consultation process, which should be completed by December 2004. TRAFFIC becomes the fourth author of the revised document. The work will be guided by a steering committee comprising two representatives from each organization.

The original 1993 WHO/IUCN/WWF Guidelines on the Conservation of Medicinal Plants can be found at:

For more information, please contact:
Wolfgang Kathe, Ph.D., TRAFFIC-Europe, Boulevard Émile Jacqmain 90, B-1000 Brussels, Belgium.
Fax: +32 2 3432565;
e-mail: [email protected]; or

Syzygium alternifolium Walp. – an endemic medicinal plant

Syzygium alternifolium Walp. is an endemic and medicinal plant species of the Tirumala hills which are a part of the Eastern Ghats of India. The plant is found in open areas of rocky terrain on the hills at an altitude of 600 to 750 m, where the soil is red and calcareous shales. Flowering occurs in April and May and fruiting in June and July. The plant is pollinated by insects and propagated by seeds.

Syzygium alternifolium Walp. (Myrtaceae) is a small tree, the leaves are sub-opposite, ovate, large, 20 cm long and 15 cm broad; the inflorescence is a cyme usually formed laterally from the axile of fallen leaves; the flowers are small calyx tube turbinate, the limb four-lobed, with four rounded, calyptrate petals; the numerous stamens are bent inwards in the bud condition; the ovary is two-celled with several ovules in each cell; and the fruit berry is globose pyriform, one-seeded. The taxa is reduced to its population density and natural spread and has become rare as it is overexploited for its professed medicinal properties. Its fruits are fleshy and edible.

The fruit pulp and alcoholic extraction of seeds possess antidiabetic properties. The ripe fruits are also used in making squashes, jellies and vinegar. The juice of the fruits is used to cure stomach ache and ulcers while the external application of the fruit pulp reduces rheumatic pains. The extract of the stem bark possess antiseptic properties. The leaves are the best source for such economically important compounds as sitosterol (+) pintol, sideroxylon and sizalterin. The juice of the fresh leaves and pulp of the tender shoots are used to treat bacillary dysentery. The wood is used for crafts, scantlings, beams, poles and agricultural implements. (Contributed by: N. Ramamurthy and N. Savithramma, Department of Botany, S.V. University, Tirupati–517 502, India [e-mail: [email protected]].)

South Africa: permits to harvest Devil’s Claw

The future of one of Northern Cape’s most important medicinal plants, the Harpagophytum procumbens DC, or Devil’s Claw, as it is more popularly known, has been given a huge boost by the laying down of permit conditions regarding large-scale harvesting of the plant in the province.

Large-scale harvesting is deemed to be the harvesting of more than 40 plants. This was decided by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, Environment and Conservation in Northern Cape, to which the survival of this precious plant is very important.

A spokesperson for the department, Thabo Mothibi, said in a statement that the introduction of permit conditions for the harvesting of Devil’s Claw in Northern Cape was a proactive step to ensure its long-term survival, and to protect its sustainable commercial use as a natural medicine through the prevention of overexploitation. Mr Mothibi said that there was a sharp increase in the demand for Devil’s Claw as a natural medicine and it was estimated that in 2002 more than two million plants were collected from the wild to meet the international demand.

According to the Northern Cape Government Gazette (Vol. 10, No. 802), the permit applicant should provide proof of consent from the landowner on whose property the harvesting will take place, as well as the submission of a Resource Assessment and Management Report (RAMR). The written consent from the landowner, or Memorandum of Agreement, must stipulate that the landowner was informed of the reasons for the collection of plants.

The department said the permit applicant should not harvest between November and February as this was the period in which flowering and seed set normally took place.

The same area should also not be harvested again for the following three years, while only secondary tubers may be harvested.

Devil’s Claw has gained popularity since the 1900s, when it was recognized as having valuable analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties to assist in the treatment of rheumatism and arthritis. It was therefore no surprise that its demand had steadily increased since the 1960s, leading to the export of the dried tubers to Europe and other countries, making it a much sought-after product outside Africa. (Source: BuaNews [Pretoria], South Africa, 19 January 2004.)

Medicinal plant collection in protected areas in the Balkans

Stocks of many medicinal plant species in the Balkan countries have declined in the past decades with some species becoming rare or endangered owing to habitat loss, habitat modification and overexploitation, among other reasons. The German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN), WWF-Germany and TRAFFIC-Europe call for action to fix and implement measures to avert the further depletion of medicinal and aromatic plant populations in the Balkan countries, most of which are preparing for accession to the European Union.

Western Europe’s herbal industry, especially in Germany, which is the largest European medicinal plant importer, relies on medicinal plant supplies taken from the wild in the Balkans. Most of the more than 2 000 different plant species that are used for producing medicine or other herbal products in Europe are collected from the wild. A surprisingly large share – about 8 percent of the global medicinal plants trade – originates from the Balkans.

In the countries that supply them, medicinal plants are a controversial topic. The livelihoods of many people in rural areas depend to a considerable extent on the wild collection of such plants, but overharvesting has depleted wild populations of many medicinal plant species in areas where they were abundant only some 10 to 15 years ago.

A study – Medicinal and Aromatic Plants in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania. A study of the collection of and trade in medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs), relevant legislation and the potential of MAP use for financing nature conservation and protected areas – released today [12 September 2003] by BfN and carried out by WWF-Germany and TRAFFIC-Europe looks into the current volumes of the medicinal plant trade, the sourcing of medicinal plants from protected areas and the legal situation in five selected Balkan countries: Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania. It also analyses several current projects aimed at a sustainable use of medicinal plants in protected areas in the region and evaluates the potential for using protected areas to link effectively nature and species conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources, thereby involving all stakeholders affected by the chain-of-custody of medicinal plants sourcing and trade. “It is vital that both range and consumer countries are aware of an urgent need to share the responsibility for sustainable sourcing, trade and use of medicinal and aromatic plants,” said co-authors of the report, Susanne Honnef from WWF-Germany and Wolfgang Kathe from TRAFFIC-Europe.

The study found that the medicinal and aromatic plant species wild-collected in the largest quantities in the region are currently sage in Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina, juniper in Bosnia-Herzegovina, dog-rose in Bulgaria, nettle in Croatia, field shave-grass (Equisetum arvense) in Croatia, as well as bilberry and raspberry in Romania. Species such as yellow gentian (Gentiana lutea) and mountain tea (Sideritis raeseri) have become threatened almost throughout their natural range in the Balkans.

Most medicinal plants in the Balkans are collected from the wild by the local population. As a rule, one or more intermediate traders and wholesalers are involved in the chain-of-custody of the trade; direct marketing by individual collectors or collectors’ cooperatives is uncommon. As a consequence, the share of the export price being earned by individual collectors is usually low. At the same time, all five countries have developed a comprehensive system of laws and other regulations related to environmental issues and the conservation of natural resources. With the exception of Bulgaria, however, the implementation and enforcement of legal instruments has so far been relatively ineffective.

In December 2002, a seminar convened by BfN, WWF-Germany and TRAFFIC-Europe in the Isle of Vilm, Germany, brought together medicinal plant experts from the Balkans and Germany to discuss ecological, social and financial implications of medicinal plant sourcing and trade in the Balkans and at the same time served as one of the main incentives to develop the study released today.

Based on the results of the study and the seminar, action at several levels is urgently needed in most areas in the Balkans. Among other things, medicinal and aromatic plant populations and wild collection activities have to be assessed and species-specific and local maximum quantities of annual wild-collection determined.

Effective control and monitoring mechanisms must be established and a comprehensive management plan has to be developed for every protected area, which should guarantee that medicinal and aromatic plant sourcing does not exceed sustainable levels. Based on the effective management of protected areas medicinal plant sourcing could subsequently contribute to nature conservation in protected areas.

In addition, collectors must – over the long term – be guaranteed a certain income level. It may be possible to achieve higher market prices if the raw material is processed in the region or country and products are sold on the national and international markets. (Hard copies of the study and the proceedings of the seminar held in Vilm, Germany – including the Declaration of Vilm – can be obtained from Gisela Stolpe, BfN [email protected]; an electronic version can be downloaded from the BfN Web site (Source: Traffic Press Release, 12 September 2003.)


Milk produced from Brazil nuts

Bread made with nut milk is a speciality of regional cuisine in Acre. As well as being tasty, the product is highly nutritious. An Acre-based company, Sello Industria Comercio, Importação is building a factory to produce pasteurized nut milk, which may be used as an alternative to coconut milk in cooking. The company already has contracts with companies in Europe for the exportation of nut products. The product will begin to be sold in Rio Branco, the capital of Acre, but the company hopes to expand its production and sell the product to other states. This year, Sello hopes to produce 100 000 litres of nut milk. The factory will employ 32 people.

The Brazil nut is considered to be one of the most complete foods available. It is rich in protein, lipids and minerals. Brazil exports around US$3.3 million of Brazil nuts every year but the product has been banned in the European Community owing to concern about contamination with a carcinogenic fungus, aflatoxin. The ban will not affect the exportation of nut milk. (Source: Página 20, in Amazon News, 31 July 2003.)

Brazil nuts vetoed in Europe

Sanctions imposed by the European Commission on the importation of Brazil nuts in their shells, owing to the presence of a fungus which is thought to be carcinogenic, have effectively brought an end to the export of the product to Europe. The Brazilian Government and the private sector lack the minimum infrastructure to meet the European standards.

All Brazil nuts exported to Europe must be accompanied by a certificate stating their origin. All the nuts must also be tested. Brazilian producers at present do not have the means to comply with these regulations. The trade in the nut, which is a symbol of Brazil, is worth around US$3.3 million per year.

The European Commission decision was based on a technical inspection carried out in Pará in January and February 2003. The inspection team found levels of the fungus, aflatoxin, 100 times greater than that permitted under European Commission rules.

Brazilian diplomats in Brussels have criticized the decision as another example of European agricultural protectionism. (Source: O Estado de S. Paulo, in Amazon News, 17 July 2003.)

Brazil nuts under threat

Scientists are warning that the export of Brazil nuts collected in the Amazon region could collapse if intensive harvesting practices continue. Until now, harvesting the nuts has been thought to be a sustainable way of preventing more environmentally destructive activities such as ranching.

However, in this week’s Science, an international team of researchers, led by Carlos Peres, a tropical conservation biologist from the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom reports that current harvesting practices are not sustainable in the long term.

The scientists surveyed 23 natural Brazil nut tree populations in the Brazilian, Bolivian and Peruvian Amazon. They found that populations that have been extensively harvested over several decades are dominated by older trees, suggesting that younger trees are unable to establish themselves in such areas. Computer models confirm that, as a result, these tree populations will dwindle over the long term if current practices persist.

Brazil nuts are the only internationally traded seed crop collected from the wild. They are traditionally harvested from trees that can reach 50 m in height and more than 16 m in circumference. At least 45 000 tonnes of nuts are harvested each year in the Amazon region.

In order to avoid a collapse of the Brazil nut industry, the researchers recommend close monitoring and careful management of exploited tree populations to encourage young trees to become established.

They also suggest that the annual quota of seeds that can be harvested should be managed, and that a rotation system should be implemented, alternating areas in which harvesting would not take place. (Source: Science, 19 December 2003.)


Tamshi: otro producto no maderable de los bosques amazónicos con importancia económica

La fibra vegetal de «tamshi» juega un rol importante en la vida del poblador rural de la Amazonía peruana, pues se la utiliza habitualmente en la construcción de casas, utensilios domésticos y artesanías. Sin embargo, hay poca conciencia sobre la necesidad de su conservación y manejo. La especie, que con un manejo adecuado puede contribuir a generar ingresos económicos y a preservar los bosques tropicales amazónicos, se halla gravemente amenazada debido a la excesiva explotación.

El nombre «tamshi» viene dado a un grupo de especies de fibras vegetales de las familias Araceaea y Cyclanthaceae. Estas especies tienen en común la característica de ser hemiepífitas, con raíces aéreas, cilíndricas o planas, largas, en forma de alambres, que cuelgan o están pegadas a los troncos de los árboles en los bosques primarios. Los «tamshies» son especies nativas de los bosques amazónicos clímax y no se encuentran en bosques secundarios.

Los «tamshies» son productos no maderables del bosque, altamente resistentes al ataque de hongos e insectos, que tienen múltiples usos y aplicaciones. En las zonas rurales son material importante de construcción que reemplaza al alambre y se utiliza como elemento de amarre para sujetar vigas, caballetes y junturas.

Es también común su uso en el tejido de canastas, esteras, camas, sombreros y otros utensilios y materiales de pesca. Los «tamshies», dependiendo del grosor y características de la especie, se utilizan también en la construcción de balsas de madera, cercos para protección de animales, armado de camas en reemplazo del somier, tendales para secar ropas y como materia prima para la fabricación de artesanías en diferentes comunidades nativas. En zonas urbanas se los utiliza ampliamente en la fabricación de muebles, pues reemplaza perfectamente a la fibra de mimbre. Como una prueba más de su gran popularidad, la capital de la provincia de Sargento Lores en Loreto se llama Tamshiyacu, nombre puesto por sus antiguos pobladores, posiblemente por la abundancia del «tamshi» en ese lugar.

En la actualidad el recurso escasea a causa de la presión ejercida por su explotación y obliga a los pobladores rurales a buscar en áreas cada vez más distantes de los centros tradicionales de producción. No obstante su utilidad, muy poco se conoce sobre aspectos básicos de su taxonomía, biología, ecología y características físicas y mecánicas, por lo que urge desarrollar investigaciones orientadas a solucionar los problemas vinculados a su manejo y explotación.

Los «tamshies» son especies nativas no maderables que tienen en común su condición de epífitas, con raíces cilíndricas largas en forma de lianas que cuelgan o están pegadas a los troncos de árboles de gran altura en bosques primarios amazónicos. En las zonas rurales, debido a su flexibilidad y alta resistencia al ataque de hongos e insectos, se los utiliza en las construcciones como material de amarre en sustitución del alambre.

Para más información, dirigirse a:
Juan Baluarte Vásquez o Dennis del Castillo, Instituto de Investigaciones
de la Amazonía Peruana (IIAP),
Av. Abelardo Quiñónez Km. 2,5,
Apartado 784 Iquitos, Perú.
Fax: +51 14 265527;
correo electrónico: [email protected] o [email protected]

He plants trees to benefit another generation.

Caecilius Status (220–168 BC)

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