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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | Generation Nachhaltigkeit | Konferenz 2010 | Programm | Abstracts | Value Chains of Astrocaryum Fibers for Handicraft Production in Colombia

Value Chains of Astrocaryum Fibers for Handicraft Production in Colombia

Freitag, 18.06.
11.15 - 13.15
Sektion: Ökonomie
Block: Märkte und Akteure

Natalia Valderrama, Technische Universität München


Three Astrocaryum species are the most important source of palm fibers for handicraft production in Colombia: A. chambira (chambira), A. standleyanum (güérregue), and A. malybo (palma estera). The goal of this master’s thesis is to characterize and evaluate the current value chains of these three species, and propose alternatives for the development of better and sustainable local palm-based industries. With this in view, during the second semester of 2009, I followed the value chains of these fiber species applying structured and semi-structured interviews to informants of each segment.

The fibers from Astrocaryum are obtained from the epidermis of the leaflets of the young unexpanded leaves. Harvest and processing these Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs), as well as their commerce, represent generally the principal income for livelihood in communities using this resource. In the case of A. chambira, fibers are harvested and processed into strong strings by Tikuna and Witoto Indians, mainly in Leticia and Puerto Nariño (Amazonas). The main source of chambira fibers are Chagras (home gardens), nevertheless, often wild individuals are cut down. The fibers are extracted, twisted, dyed and processed into a wide variety of artifacts, such us hammocks and bags, which are sold directly to tourists or handicrafts shops.

A. standleyamun fibers are generally extracted in a destructive way from wild individuals, by Wounaan Indians located along the River San Juan, on the Pacific coast. The güérregue fibers are processed and woven only by women who spend various weeks to produce a single vase or tray, thus, manufacturing high quality and expensive handicrafts. These artifacts are sold directly to tourists, but essentially, bartered with intermediates, which exhibit the handicrafts in local fairs or specialized shops reaching considerable prices. A. malybo leaflet blades are harvested by landless artisans at the Caribbean lowlands as a fiber to weave mats, baskets, bags and other artifacts. Making handicrafts is an activity with strong cultural importance and tradition in the region, and is exclusively done by women. Similarly, the fibers are harvested, dried, dyed and woven, to produce artifacts sold directly to tourists, middlemen or in local fairs. Harvesting these fibers is not a destructive practice; nevertheless, the natural habitat of this species has been dramatically reduced during the last decades.

The current value chains have a harmful effect on the habitat and can cause the local depletion of these species, having a tremendous negative impact on family income and on local cultural traditions. This master’s thesis offers some insights to achieve sustainable value chains, and analyzes the economic importance, potentials and implications of the trade of these artifacts in a national and international scale.

Key Words:

Astrocaryum, ethnobotany, palms, value chains, Non-Timber Forest Products.