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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2004  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 217-234

Artisanal Non-Timber Forest Products in Darien Province, Panama: The Importance of Context

1 Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, 205 Prospect Street, New Haven CT 06511, USA.
2 University of Panama, Urbanizacion El Cangrejo, Panama.
3 Maritime Service of Panama.

Correspondence Address:
J Velasquez Runk
Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, 205 Prospect Street, New Haven CT 06511, USA.

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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Non-timber forest products (NTFP) have been frequently studied as a means to conserve forests and provide income to user communities. Studies on NTFP have often been restricted to a single species, year and human user community. However, a number of recent studies are challenging these simplifications. Here, we examine a suite of artisanal NTFP that are of increasing economic importance to Wounaan and Embera households in Panama. Artisans make carvings from seeds of a tagua palm (Phytelephas seemannii) and the wood of cocobolo (Dalbergia retusa), and weave baskets from the fibres of the chunga palm (Astrocaryum standleyanum). We studied the ecology and socio-economics of these resources between 1997 and 2001, and here consider ecological, spatio-temporal, and socio-political vari­ables in the use of these artisanal NTFP. Our methods included the establishment of long-term demographic plots of P. seemannii, natural history observations, participant observation of harvest and semi-structured interviews of artisans and vendors. Our results indicate that the ecological effects of harvesting are vastly different for each species, but so too are spatial, temporal, social and political variables. We conclude by illustrating how contextualising the differences among these three NTFPs leads to answers of questions we did not ask, but also is more relevant to resource users, managers and policy makers.

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