Values, practices and local relationships with aguajales in three communities in the Loreto region

Principle questions:

What are the values and practices associated with these aguajales (Mauritia flexuosa palm swamps)?

What is the importance of these areas for the local economy and culture?

How is use and access to these zones organised in time and space?

How do these aspects relate to the trends in degradation and/or conservation of these areas?

Goals and objectives:

To understand the local relationships with these aguajal ecosystems, and the principle factors behind the trends in conservation and/or degradation of these spaces.

Details on the methodology used:

Mapping of actors/stakeholders

A map of stakeholders from the study areas was developed, being a very useful tool that has facilitated the understanding of the dynamics of the relationships and power in the study areas and allowed us to identify allies for the achievement of the objectives. According to secondary information collected, preliminary maps were designed that were very useful for fieldwork.

Discussion on stakeholder map

Collection of secondary information

Existing bibliographic references on the study areas and communities were collected from the web and specialist libraries.

Prior informed consent

Prior informed consent meetings were held in the communities of Nueva Unión and Nuevo Pandora. Consent was given in Nueva Unión on 26th February 2019 and in Nueva Pandora on 12th June. In Nueva Unión, 32 people (19 men and 13 women) participated in the meeting and in Nueva Pandora, eight (5 men and 3 women). (When analysing the results and describing the particular reality of this community, the low number of participants has been taken into consideration.) During these consent meetings, the general themes of research were explained and the joint work of the project coordinated with the community.


Prior consent meetings in Nueva Unión and Nuevo Pandora.

A briefing was also held in Veinte de Enero, where the research to be carried out was presented and the research questions raised. The meeting was held on 15th May in the community itself.

Briefing meetings at the start of fieldwork, in Veinte de Enero and Jenaro Herrera communities.


Elaboration of the map of land use in the ecosystems surrounding the community

In the four communities, we worked in groups to establish, using the map as a tool for focusing conversation, the areas of importance for the extraction of aguaje, as well as the points considered most sensitive for conservation. The objective of the meetings was to develop a map detailing resource use by the communities. The maps show, in addition to the areas of use, those areas that are considered most vulnerable, due to uncontrolled extraction amongst other factors. The maps are of paramount importance because they clearly show the community’s perception of the use of resources and the impact that this generates on the surrounding palm swamps.

Participatory mapping
   Maps drawn by community members

Visits to the resource extraction sites and wetlands of ecological and cultural importance

Visits were made to the sites of resource extraction identified by the inhabitants of the four communities, gathering information and taking geographical location points with handheld GPS devices. On-site interviews were conducted in the management zones, asking about use, threats and common perceptions on the conservation of the aguajales.


Visits to the harvesting zones


Interviews were carried out with 20 inhabitants of the community of Veinte de Enero, 23 of Jenaro Herrera, six of Nueva Pandora and 18 of Nueva Unión. The interviews were designed prior to fieldwork and accompanied by a map to allow the interviewee to identify areas of resource use, as mentioned in a previous point. The interviews focused on the ways in which the aguajales are managed and individual perceptions on the degree of conservation practiced in the aguajales by the community.


Focus groups

Focus group meetings were held, consisting of inhabitants of each of the communities in the study. The groups were organised taking into account aspects relating to the use of the aguaje plant, knowledge of the territory, use of the aguajales and developed activities linked to the aguajal ecosystems.

Things to consider in the future:

  • Effects and functioning of new markets for aguaje (national and international)
  • To understand more deeply the chain of commercialisation of aguaje on its different scales, and how this impacts on the relationships of local communities with the aguajales
  • Potential effects of road infrastructure in the region

Principle contacts:

Manuel Martin Brañas, [email protected]

Luis Andueza, [email protected]