Livelihoods and natural resources: A quantitative assessment in the Peruvian Amazon floodplain

PhD defence

Jamie Nicole Cotta


This dissertation research contributes to the emerging body of knowledge on the economic contributions of natural resources to rural livelihoods, including their role in household shock coping, in the humid tropics. Data from one of the first comprehensive household income quantifications in the Amazon will inform more socio-culturally- and economically-appropriate research, policies and projects aimed at promoting sustainable resource-based livelihoods in forest-dependent populations.

In-depth subsistence and cash income data for 176 households over one year provide evidence of a relatively high degree of natural resource reliance compared to other forested regions (an average 42% of household income derived from forest and agroforestry products, plus 14% derived from fishing). Results from household shock coping surveys highlight the safety net functions of forest and fishery products, particularly following a widespread flood, when crops and livestock are lost and mutual assistance is compromised. Furthermore, ethnicity, market distance, resource type/proximity, and household wealth, among other variables, are all significant determinants of natural resource harvest for household income generation and shock coping. In addition, a multi-method approach (utilizing income, transect inventory and free-list data) demonstrates the significant economic importance of agroforestry environments, particularly managed fallows, when compared with natural forests.

Interventions aimed at sustaining livelihoods and improving shock resilience should consider landscape heterogeneity, specifically in regard to resource distribution and abundance, as well as specific resource user types (e.g. hunters versus aguaje fruit harvesters). Moreover, particular attention should be paid to households characterized by both high vulnerability (e.g., residents with flood-vulnerable cultivation) and limited availability/diversity of environmentally-sourced coping products. Finally, future research and development initiatives should take into account not just natural forests or agricultural systems, but also transitional, managed environments such as fallows, which are widespread in Amazonian forests.

Principal Supervisor

Senior Researcher Ida Theilade, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen

Assessment Committee

Professor Carsten Smith-Hall, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen (chairman)

Director Christine Padoch, CIFOR Headquarters, Bogor, Indonesia

Professor Victoria Reyes-Garcia, Institut de Ciéncia I Technologia Ambientals Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, Spain