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Conditions for Sustainable Use: The Case of the Chaguar (Bromelia hieronymi) in a Wichí Community from the Argentine Chaco

December 1, 2001

This is Chapter 5 of the larger volume, Lessons Learned: Case Studies in Sustainable Use. The chaguar (Bromelia hieronymi) is a plant traditionally used for food and fiber by the Wichí people -- hunter gatherers of the Argentine semi-arid Chaco region. Disagreement over use, sustainability, scarcity and management of the plant exists between the Wichí and other groups, notably technicians and developers. The majority of Wichí families here live off income derived from the sale of crafts that they produce. Crafts are made from Chaco hardwoods, some are made only using chaguar. To harvest the chaguar, women must travel many kilometers into the forest. Therein lies the belief, among technicians and those involved in development projects, that the chaguar is becoming increasingly scarce. An alternative, they suggest, to traveling to the chaguar, would be to cultivate the crop closer to Wichí settlements. The Wichí do not to agree and do not believe that the chaguar is becoming increasingly scarce and therefore contest any need to cultivate the species. Contrary to what economic theory suggests, unrestricted access neither generates any conflict nor contributes to increased scarcity. Sustainability is put at risk only by 'macro' factors, such as a mistaken land tenure policies and ecosystem degradation. At the same time, harvesting and utilizing chaguar is extremely labor-intensive and increases the cost of the end products. What appears to be adaptive for the conservation of the plant is in fact detrimental to the Wichí. This report analyzes several factors -- supply, demand and sustainability -- all of which reveal a remarkable degree of variability and uncertainty.

Lessons Learned: Case Studies in Sustainable Use, Conclusion

December 1, 2001

The conclusion of Lessons Learned: Case Studies in Sustainable Use summarizes the overarching lessons learned from the case studies provided in the volume. 1. Sustainability of uses of renewable natural resources is dependent on the existence of a 'sustainable society'at the local, national and global levels. 2. Successful biological conservation is a function of equity and democracy. 3. To achieve greater sustainability of uses of natural resources will likely require modification of the roles of organizations and government agencies in authority. 4. The current conservation paradigm of Protected Areas (including as applied to the 'biodiversity hotspots'concept) may not be economically viable in many developing countries, simply because the opportunitycosts often exceed the value local people receive from their existence. National and international agencies and organizations realize most of the value from designation of protected areas and 'hotspots'. 5. It is not possible to transpose directly the combination of factors that influence one case to another site, and expect the same impact or result.6. Donor agencies and/or central government policies need to consider management requirements beyond project cycles in order to promote long-term sustainability of resource uses.7. External factors such as war and natural disasters can have an over-riding influence on the sustainability of resource use. 8. Interventions on key resources by external institutions often pressure transformation of local governance systems. The impact of these changes is often overlooked. More specific observations of common features. Furthermore, the conclusion provides lessons related to policy, social processes, institutions, and information.

Lessons Learned: Case Studies in Sustainable Use, Preface Page

December 1, 2001

This preface page of the volume Lessons Learned: Case Studies in Sustainable Use, provides a summary of the book's purpose and structure. Enhancing sustainability requires a multidisciplinary approach. Because there is such diversity in resources, uses, and users, there is no universal formula, yet to promote, or assess, practices in context is essential. Without this capacity approaches to sustainable use will remain superficial and ineffective.The present volume presents six detailed cases of uses of different facets of biological diversity in Africa (East, West and Southern), Central Asia and South America-Latin America;. The objective of the project was to identify 'Lessons Learned' from examples of sustainable use. To address this objective, six cases were selected because they had been implemented for several years and they were being implemented in different regions, thus enhancing the potential for identifying key lessons. Each of the case studies was examined using an 'Analytic Framework for Assessing the Factors that Influence Sustainability of Uses of Wild Living Natural Resources' The Analytic Framework (Annex 1) provided a consistent, systematic approach to the analysis of the cases according to 'domains of issues' considered important in assessing sustainability, including inter alia, ecological processes and functions, economic factors, societal and institutional factors.