The Use of Hemiepiphytes as Craft Fibres by Indigenous Communities in the Colombian Amazon

Vargas, María Paula Balcázar
van Andel, Tinde
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
Aerial roots of hemiepiphytes are used throughout the Amazon Basin for house construction, basketry, traps and furniture. Here we describe how 15 species of hemiepiphytes are extracted by six indigenous groups in the Colombian Amazon for traditional artefacts, commercial crafts and as raw material for the furniture industry. Indigenous classification systems, use preferences, and the influence of the craft trade on indigenous livelihoods are discussed. The craft trade seems to improve the living conditions of local communities by making them less dependent from local guerrilla and coca production. However, we seriously question the sustainability of current fibre extraction. Designing adequate management plans for commercial hemiepiphytes is essential to guarantee the future supply of these valuable non-timber forest products.
Vargas MPB, van Andel T. 2005. The use of hemiepiphytes as craft fibres by indigenous communities in the Colombian Amazon. Ethnobotany Research & Applications 3:243-260.
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