Land and tree use on colonist farms in the Aguarico sector, Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve, Ecuador

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Land and tree use on colonist farms in the Aguarico sector, Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve, Ecuador
Ellis, Edward A., 1966-
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xi, 279 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Land use -- Ecuador ( lcsh )
Clearing of land -- Ecuador ( lcsh )
Agricultural systems -- Ecuador ( lcsh )
Latin American Studies thesis, M.A
Dissertations, Academic -- Latin American Studies -- UF
bibliography ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 1996.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 266-278).
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General Note:
Electronic resources created as part of a prototype UF Institutional Repository and Faculty Papers project by the University of Florida.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Edward A. Ellis.

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Full Text







Copyright 1996


Edward A. Ellis

To the memory of my father, Dr. George L. Ellis

and to my mother, Violeta Ellis Mazur6


Fieldwork was supported by a grant from the Tropical

Conservation and Development Program at the University of


M6nica Le6n assisted in the field and gave her patience

and loving support to make it all possible.

Since this thesis is about colonist farmers, every

household interviewed during the study provided the most

essential contributions. Their cooperation, kindness, and

knowledge are greatly appreciated.

Luis Calder6n and Luis Ortiz of Proyecto SUBIR showed

interest in the research and provided institutional support

in Ecuador. Proyecto SUBIR furnished office facilities in

Quito and supplied some of the plant collecting and pressing


Jorge Aguirre, Chief of the Technical Office in

Lumbaqui for the Ecuadorian National Institute of Forestry

and Natural Areas (INEFAN), allowed the use of the Aguarico

Ranger Station as a place to call home during field work.

Don Juan Zhuira, Luis Tonato, Obdulio Grefa, and

Clemente Dahgua, INEFAN park rangers for the Cayambe-Coca

Ecological Reserve, were invaluable informants and humorous

friends. George Ellis helped out incredibly with

transportation needs in Ecuador in addition to providing a

roof and entertainment in Quito.

The National Herbarium of Quito assisted in

demonstrating the appropriate way for collecting plant

specimens and in drying collected plant samples.

Kent Perkins permitted the use of the University of Florida

Herbarium facilities for plant identification.

Finally, acknowledgment is given to the members of my

thesis committee, Peter Hildebrand, Mary Duryea, and P.K.

Nair for their academic support and advisement from the

development of this project to the completion of this



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS..... .................................... iv

ABSTRACT ...................................................x

CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION....... ........................... 1

Problem. ................................ .............1
Purpose of Study...................................... 5
Location of the Aguarico Sector.......................7
Hypotheses ..........................................13
Objectives. ......................................... 15
Procedures............................................... 15
Farm Surveys..................................... 15
Additional Interviews...........................19
Vegetation Transects.............................20
Outline of Thesis................................... 21

CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW...............................22

Deforestation and Agricultural Colonization..........23
Who's Cutting the Forest?.......................23
Population Growth...............................24
Land Reform..................................... 25
The Oil Boom..................................... 26
Policy and Institutions........................27
Agricultural Expansion and Production...........29
Process of Natural Resource Degradation.........30
Colonization Process and Characteristics........32
Conservation and Sustainable Development............. 35
Problems with "Sustainability"..................35
Colonization and Protected Areas ................37
Agroforestry and Sustainable Development........ 38


Natural Environment.................................45
Topography and Hydrology........................45
Soils ...........................................46
Vegetation ............................................ 47
Socioeconomic Environment............................48

Transportation Infrastructure...................53
Social Organization............................55
Petroleum and Mining............................56
Agriculture and Forestry........................58
Slash/mulch Agriculture.............................60
Crops........................................... 62
Pasture and Livestock.......................... 65
Calendar of Activities..........................68
Farm Development and Marketing..................69
Credit and Assistance...........................71
Conservation ....................................72
Major Problems..................................74

AGUARICO SECTOR.....................................78

Socioeconomic Characteristics........................80
Age of Farms.....................................80
Residency of Households.........................84
Households Size and Labor........................84
Origin of Colonists.............................85
Land Acquisition and Tenure .....................86
Off Farm and Hired Labor....................... 89
Agricultural Credit.............................90
Agricultural Extension..........................91
Additional Farms................................91
Gender Roles and Differences.........................92
Land Use on Colonist Farms...........................95
Average Land Use on Farms of the Study Area.....96
Distance from the Road vs. Age of Farm.........100
Farm Size........................................101
Dynamics of Land Use in Colonization Zones.....102
Forest and deforested areas ..............106
Pasture area..............................116
Fallow area.............................. 122
Crop area.................................123
Crop Production and Marketing.......................134
Coffee......................................... 135
Naranjill .....................................142
Cacao ..........................................147


Plantain....................................... 153
Cassava, Taro and Others.......................156
Forage Grasses...................................158
Livestock Production................................161
Cattle .........................................161
Mules and Horses ..............................166
Pigs ......................................167
Poultry.................................... 168
Summary and Discussion..............................169

SYSTEMS OF THE AGUARICO SECTOR......................188

Tree Species on Colonist Farms......................192
Structure of Tree and Crop Components in Colonist
Agroecosystems........................................... 206
Woody Plants Found in Vegetation Transects.....206
Composition and Structure of Vegetation in Crop
Areas.............................................. 210
Composition and Structure of Vegetation in
Pastures.................... .................. 217
Summary and Discussion..............................222

CHAPTER 6: SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS .......................231

The Study............................................231
Socioeconomic Factors...............................233
Land and Natural Resource Utilization...............236



LIST OF REFERENCES......................................... 266

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.... .................................278


Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts



Edward A. Ellis

May, 1996

Chairman: Peter E. Hildebrand
Major Department: Center for Latin American Studies

This thesis describes farming systems in an

agricultural frontier zone of Northeast Ecuador based on

questionnaire surveys and vegetation transects. Land and

tree use are examined on farms in relation to their distance

from the Inter-Oceanic raod and age of colonization. The

results have important implications for rural development

and conservation of protected areas in the region.

Colonists are mostly involved in cattle, coffee and

naranjilla (Solanum quitoense) production for cash and

plantains, cassava and other livestock (e.g. pigs and

chickens) for subsistence. Along the road, farms are older

and larger and have large areas cleared, the majority in

pasture. These farms are usually more involved in cattle

production. Along mule trails, farms are generally smaller

and younger, and households are more dependent on cash and

subsistence crops. Areas cleared and put in pasture on

farms increase with respect to farm age and size. Although

these areas tend to be smaller on farms along mule trails,

in more remote and recently colonized farms, deforested

areas and pastures can be almost as large as on farms along

the road.

On colonized farms that are too remote for cash crop

transportation and marketing, putting land into pasture and

raising cattle are'attractive development strategies.

Cattle is transported easier or even bought on farms and

provides higher cash returns. In addition, households in

remote areas, usually without land titles, claim and secure

land by clearing forests and putting large areas in pasture.

Land reform policy in Ecuador has been influential in

promoting this land clearing process.

Along the road households are able to take better

advantage of timber resources on farms for cash, although

harvestable timber trees in this area have been

overexploited and have become scarce. Trees used for

subsistence purposes are frequently used by colonists and

are of greater importance in recently colonized and remote

areas along mule trails.



Agricultural expansion in the Ecuadorian Amazon, or

Oriente, has been coupled with rapid deforestation rates,

degradation of lands, and declining productivity (INEFAN,

1993; Rudel & Horowitz, 1993; Southgate et al., 1992;

Uquillas, 1986). Roads have been foremost in providing

accessibility to these tropical forest lands and they have

had major influences in the colonization process, rural

development, and natural resource deterioration in the

region (Rudel & Horowitz, 1993; Hiroaka & Yamamoto, 1980;

Rudel, 1983).

The Inter-Oceanic road, Ecuador's main route towards

the eastern forest frontier, was built in 1970 to serve the

oil industry in the Amazon (Uquillas, 1986; Hiroaka &

Yamamoto, 1980). This road runs within 5 km of the southern

and eastern limits of the Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve

(CCER), a protected area established during the same year

(Fundaci6n Natura, 1992a, 1992b). Since its construction,

forest lands have been progressively settled by colonist


farmers (Hiroaka & Yamamoto, 1980; Fundaci6n Natura 1992b;

Rudel & Horowitz, 1993). The outcome of 25 years of

agricultural colonization has not been encouraging. In

areas along the CCER, problems of low agricultural yields,

poor rural development, poverty, loss of forest resources,

and encroachment into reserve lands have ensued (Proyecto

SUBIR, 1992; Fundaci6n Natura, 1992a, 1992b; INEFAN 1993).

In forest frontiers of developing nations,

environmental, agricultural and socioeconomic problems are

common (Theile, 1993; Bebbington, 1990; Collins, 1986;

Findley, 1988; Moreno & McKay, 1984; Schmink & Wood, 1984).

Because of a growing concern about the unfavorable

environmental and social circumstances commonly associated

with agriculture and land use changes in tropical regions

(Plucknett, 1993; Paarlberg, 1994), international and

national agricultural research institutions are focusing

their attention on this problem and they are developing

strategies to improve production systems and livelihoods

while maintaining the natural resource base (Plucknett,


In light of current population growth trends in most

tropical nations, the production and supply of food and

other resources is expected to increase from these regions

(Paarlberg, 1994). On the other hand, deforestation and its

links to loss of biodiversity and possible global warming


discourage increased forest clearing for agriculture

(Paarlberg, 1994; Plucknett, 1993). Problems in forest

frontiers occur and should be analyzed across different

scales of space and time from farm, to regional, national

and even international levels (Skole et al., 1994; Collier

et al., 1994). The complex set of social, cultural,

political, economic and ecological aspects associated with

rural development and environmental degradation in tropical

forests has called for multi-disciplinary efforts and

strategies such as "sustainable and integrated development".

In colonization zones of the Ecuadorian Amazon, goals

and strategies directed toward improving production and

conserving natural resources have already begun to be

discussed and investigated. Among the most popular rural

development and conservation strategies being promoted in

the Ecuadorian Amazon, including the CCER region, are

improved agrosilvicultural and silvopastoral systems and the

sustainable extraction of timber and non-timber forest

products (Cardenas 1993; Fundaci6n Natura, 1992a, 1992b;

INEFAN, 1993; Peck, 1990). Government organizations such as

the Ecuadorian National Institute of Forestry and Natural

Areas (INEFAN) and the Forestry Program of Sucumbios

(PROFORS), which are under the administration of the

Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG), and non-

government organizations, like Project SUBIR (Sustainable


Use of Biological Resources) and Green Hand Forestry

Foundation (FFMV), all have the common objective of

attempting to develop land use strategies that will preserve

biodiversity and promote sustainable use of natural

resources by colonist farmers (INEFAN, 1993; Boese, 1992;

Fundaci6n Natura, 1992a, 1992b; Niell, 1993). The

strategies pursued by these institutions mostly include

reforestation and agroforestry projects.

The success of rural development and resource

conservation strategies will most likely depend upon

multidisciplinary and multi-scale research being emphasized

by the scientific community. Many researchers stress the

value of diagnostic, problem-solving, and participatory

types of approaches to rural development, natural resource

management, and conservation in the tropics (Rocheleau,

1994, 1985; Touber et al., 1989; Edwards et al., 1993;

Williams, 1993; Sayer, 1991; Gomez-Pompa & Burley 1991;

Raintree, 1990a, 1990b,1984; Wood, 1988). The evaluation

and assessment of land and natural resource use by local

populations (from household to landscape levels) is

essential in planning and implementing many of these

projects and ensuring their feasibility, success, and

longevity (Rocheleau, 1994; Touber et al., 1989; Raintree,

1990b; Gomez-Pompa & Burley, 1991).


To begin with, it is important to determine the social,

economic and ecological characteristics of agricultural

systems and how these influence land use practices in forest

frontier zones. Studies of colonist farming systems in

Ecuador and their social and agricultural scientific bases

are scarce (Southgate et al., 1992). According to Boese

(1992), a considerable amount of research is necessary to

develop strategies that can be adapted to the vaguely

understood conditions in colonization zones of the Oriente.

Often, colonist farmers in the tropics are regarded as

the agents of deforestation and environmental degradation,

when in reality, they are responding to political, economic,

and ecological forces beyond their control. Roads, markets,

credit, land tenure, and policies can be associated with

environmental impacts by influencing colonist farmers'

decisions on land and natural resource use (Rudel &

Horowitz, 1993; Loker, 1993; Southgate et al., 1991;

Southgate, 1990; Uquillas, 1986; Collins, 1986; Hiroaka &

Yamamoto, 1980). These influences must be better understood

if environmental degradation and sustainable development

strategies directly involve colonist farmers.

Purpose of Study

Although a few research projects have described

colonist farming systems in the Oriente (Fundaci6n Natura,


1992b; Ramirez et al., 1992a; Pijnenburg & Portilla, 1991;

Estrada et al., 1988; INIAP, 1987; Hildebrand & Espinosa,

1982), research involving spatial and temporal analysis of

farming systems in colonization zones, use of natural

resources by colonist farmers, or gender issues is until now

very weak or lacking entirely. In the CCER region in

particular, the assessment of land use and production on

local colonist farming systems has been minimal. Moreover,

relationships of the colonization process on agricultural

practices and its impact on natural areas have been scarcely

investigated in this region.

Conditions such as remoteness (or proximity and access

to roads and markets) and stage of farm development, obvious

circumstances in colonization zones of the Ecuadorian

Amazon, have been discussed as influencing land use and

production in farming systems (Chala, 1981; Hildebrand &

Espinosa, 1982; INIAP, 1987; Feaster, 1970). Roads and

stage of settlement can have significant influences in

deforestation, rural development, degradation of natural

resources, agricultural production, forest use,

commercialization, markets, and the economy of colonization

zones, not to mention, the lives of the colonists (Rudel &

Horowitz, 1993; Loker, 1993; Southgate et al., 1991;

Southgate, 1990; Uquillas, 1986; Collins, 1986; Hiraoka &

Yamamoto, 1980). These differences may be relevant to the


adoption and success of sustainable development strategies

that are being promoted for colonist farmers in the region.

However, many of these specific differences have not been

quantified or assessed.

This study describes farming systems of the Aguarico

sector, a colonization zone along the Inter-Oceanic road,

and evaluates spatial and temporal differences in their

characteristics with reference to distance from the road and

age of settlement or farms. Socioeconomic, land use,

agricultural production, and tree use characteristics of

farming systems are assessed and discussed in the contexts

of rural development, natural resource conservation, and

management and protection of the CCER.

The purpose of this study was to fill some of the gaps

in current farming systems research in colonization zones of

the Ecuadorian Amazon and provide an agroecological

evaluation for the Aguarico sector in the CCER. Hopefully,

this thesis will serve as an information tool for the

development of successful conservation and development

strategies and the protection of natural areas in the


Location of the Aguarico Sector

The CCER, a 403,313 ha reserve, covers a large portion

of the eastern slope of the Andes in northern Ecuador and


descends into the lowlands of the Oriente. Altitude spans

from 500 m to 5000 m, and the reserve encompasses the snow-

capped volcano, Cayambe. Vegetation zones in the CCER

include alpine plains (paramos), dwarf scrub forests

(matorral), high elevation tropical forests (ceja de

montana), and lower elevation forests. The Aguarico sector

is located in the northeastern portion of the CCER at the

foothills of the Andes between 0005'S and 0010'N latitude

and 77023' and 77030' W longitude (Figure 1-1) and contains

lower elevation forests.

This sector of the CCER is important since it contains

colonized areas along the Inter-Oceanic road and the Due and

Aguarico Rivers. It comprises extensive areas of the

Parroquias Puerto Libre and Lumbaqui of the Cant6n Gonzalo

Pizarro (2284 km2) in Ecuador's northeastern province of

Sucumbios (Fundaci6n Natura, 1992b; INEFAN, 1993). The town

of Lumbaqui is the largest populated center and the head of

the Cant6n. Small rural towns, Gonzalo Pizarro, Amazonas,

and El Cisne are located along the road in the Aguarico

sector. In addition, the Aguarico sector contains a

Quechua-Quijos Indian community called Chuscuyacu and a

Cofan Indian community, Comuna Sinangue.

Puerto Libre

Aguarico River


Figure 1-1. Map of the CCER and Aguarico Sector


The study focused on farms in three sections of the

colonized zone in the Aguarico sector, one next to the

Inter-oceanic road and the other two on mule trails along

the Due River, Figure 1-2. A census of farms and their

approximate delimitations within the study area were

obtained at the Ecuadorian Institute for Agrarian Reform and

Colonization (IERAC) office in Baeza and updated with help

of a local informant. These are shown in Figure 1-2.

The first section (Section 1) is along the road between

Km 58 and Km 80 on the side bordering the CCER, and it is

occupied mostly by "independent" colonist farmers and

farmers belonging to the Precooperativa Rio Coca. This is

the oldest section with most of the farms established 20 to

25 years ago.

A second section (Section 2) consists of farms settled

along a mule trail which starts after the Due River foot

bridge (500 m from the road on Km 64.5) and extends in a

northerly direction following the course of the Due River up

to the Aguarico River. This trail serves colonist farmers

of the Precooperativa Rio Due and the mostly Quechua-Quijos

Indian community, Chuscuyacu. This section contains

agricultural areas colonized mostly between 15 and 20 years

ago. The Comuna Sinangue, which is by the Aguarico river

I.'= a KmM

l Suaueyed Farm

X Ugetation Tranaect
I .-hI*h .

Figure 1-2. Location of surveyed farms and vegetation


about 18 km from the road, can be reached by mule trails

from the second section. This comuna is inhabited mostly by

Cofan Indians.

The third section (Section 3) includes colonist farms

settled along another mule trail which also starts after the

Rio Due footbridge but heads in a northwestern direction.

This trail serves colonist (and indigenous) farmers of the

Precooperativas Chiguapeia and San Pedro del Chaco (or El

Chaco). It is the most recently colonized section with most

farms established during the last 10 years but mainly after

the 1987 earthquake that hit this region.

Both mule trails extend more than 10 km from the road

and extend into the limits of the CCER. Trails are actually

a series of trails that branch off into different farms or

split up from a main trail and run parallel to one other.

These patterns were found in both mule trail sections of the

study area (Sections 2 and 3). Because of the hilly

terrain, rainy weather, and heavy traffic, trails were

deteriorated and difficult to travel. Travel time on foot

ranged from 1.5 to 2 km per hour.

In the Aguarico sector, indigenous families are

considered "colonist" farmers since they also arrived no

longer than 26 years ago to occupy plots intervened through

IERAC. Moreover, they are involved in the market economy


together with non-indigenous (mestizo, black, etc.) farmers.

The reasons chosen for selecting these three sections

in the study area are

1. More homogeneity in ecological factors such as climate,

altitude, and vegetation type.

2. Differences in ages of settlement between the three


3. Closeness to the boundary of the CCER.

4. Inaccessibility of vehicles to farms across the Due



The basic hypothesis is that farming systems in a

colonization zone bordering the CCER will vary according to

distance to the primary road and age of the farm. In farms

that are more remote and/or more recent, socioeconomic

conditions should be poorer because of more transportation

and market constraints and perhaps unfavorable credit,

labor, capital and land tenure conditions. Specific

hypotheses are that relationships exist among

1. Land use on colonist farms and proximity to the road

and/or age of farm settlement.

a) remote or recent farms have more land cultivated

with subsistence crops, less area under cash crop

production, and more forested land.


b) remote or recent farms have less area in pastures,

less cattle, and lower stocking rates (ha/head) than

farms along the road.

c) farms along the road have more land under cash

crop production, larger areas in pasture, more

deforested areas and less forested land.

2. Agroforestry practices and types (timber, fruit,

firewood, medicinal, others) and purposes (cash or

subsistence) of tree species and products used by households

and proximity to the road and/or age of the farm.

a) agroforestry practices and trees utilized by

households in remote areas or recently established

farms are focused on food, timber, and fuelwood for

household needs.

b) agroforestry practices and trees utilized in farms

along the road or older farms are focused on timber

and fruit species for cash.

3. Gender and their labor and household contributions on

colonist farms.

a) women manage or control crops, trees and small

livestock mostly for subsistence needs.

b)men manage or control crops, trees and cattle for

household cash needs.



1. Describe socioeconomic and agricultural characteristics

of colonist farming systems in the Aguarico Sector of the


2. Identify tree species and agroforestry practices used by

colonist farmers in the Aguarico sector of the CCER.

3. Examine differences in land use, agroforestry practices,

and utilization of trees between farms located along the

road and farms.along mule trails up to 10 km from the road.

4. Characterize gender roles in colonist farming systems.


Farm Surveys

This study was based on structured household interviews

conducted during farm visits. A survey form was used to

record information quickly and efficiently, Appendix 1.

Surveys were conducted during the months of May, June and

July of 1994.

Basic information of farms such as location, distance

from the road, and age were obtained from maps and records

at the IERAC office in Baeza. Walking distances along

trails were also measured with a pedometer. Male and/or

female head of households (or other important adult

household members) were asked to provide information on


household characteristics, land use and production, and

utilization of trees on farms.

Socioeconomic information included: household

composition, length of household residency, type of farm

acquisition, place of origin, land tenure, ownership of

additional farms, household and hired labor utilization,

involvement in off-farm labor, and availability of credit

and extension services on farm. Information on land use and

agricultural characteristics included: farm size, total

area cleared, areas under different types of land uses

(crops and pastures), area in fallow, crop and livestock

production and management, transportation and marketing

methods. Information on tree use by households included:

trees identified by the household on farm, type of use, type

of management, and species numbers and densities if

possible. Data collected on socioeconomic characteristics,

agricultural production, and land and tree use on farms are

based on the farmer's or household's knowledge and criteria.

Households were interviewed in a total of 50 farms

visited within the study area and shown in Figure 1-2.

Within Section 1 along the road, 21 farms were visited. In

Section 2, along the Playas del Due-Chuscuyacu trail, 18

farms were visited, and in Section 3, on the Chiguapeia-El

Chaco trail, 11 were visited. The farms visited were

selected at random from the population of censused farms


stratified into three distance categories from the road: by

the road (0 km), between 1 and 5 km from the road, and more

than 5 km from the road. Correspondingly, samples were

obtained from 21 farms along the road, 15 farms between 1

and 5 km from the road, and 14 farms more than 5 km from the


Sections 2 and 3 were scouted by foot and Section 1 by

automobile in order to find the randomly chosen farms and

their respective households. These households were

approached and an interview with an adult member (usually

the male or female head of household) was requested by the

researcher. If they were not free or present, an

appointment was made for a later trip. When scouting

Sections 2 and 3, distances of farms from the road were

measured with a pedometer. By the end of the study, almost

50% of the population of farms in the three sections of the

study area was surveyed and over 50% of the farms in section

2 and 3 was surveyed.

Statistical comparisons were made between farms for the

three distance categories from the road (by the road or 0

km, 1-5 km, > 5 km) and for the three settlement age

categories within the study area (the oldest, along the road

or Section 1; the intermediate, Playas del Due-Chuscuyacu or

Section 2; and the most recent, Chiguapefa-El Chaco or

Section 3). In this manner, relationships between distance


from the road and age of settlement could be evaluated.

Kruskal-Wallis statistics (X2 approximation) were used

as tests of independence for interval level data recorded

(e.g., ages of farm, areas of land use and household

numbers). Sample size (n), means, and standard deviations

(SD) are presented for interval data, and the results from

Kruskal-Wallis tests are presented as; x2=chi-square and

p=significance level. Nominal data are presented as

percentages of the particular sample. Fisher's exact test

was used to compare nominal data recorded (e.g. places of

origin, type of land tenure, credit status). Results from

Fisher's exact test are presented as p=significance level.

Multiple regressions and analysis of variance were also

employed to determine relationships of land use,

specifically with respect to independent variables of

distance from the road, age of farm and size of farm. These

are presented with prediction equations of regression lines,

r2=coefficient of determination, F-test, and p=significance

of F. SAS (SAS Institute Inc., 1988) was used for the

analysis of Kruskal-Wallis and Fisher's exact statistics.

Quattro Pro 6.0 was used to determine regression statistics

and analysis of variance.

Additional Interviews

Interviews with women in households of colonist farming

systems were conducted to determine their specific roles and

contributions. A separate questionnaire was designed to

gather this information from interviewed female heads of

household. Seventeen formal interviews were conducted with

women in the study area.

Informal interviews were conducted with CCER park

rangers and the INEFAN forestry official for the area on the

subjects of timber extraction and marketing systems, state

regulations and permits for timber harvesting by farmers,

and problems of reserve encroachment and illegal timber and

wildlife harvesting. In addition, several local merchants

including intermediaries and a carpentry shop owner were

also questioned about relevant topics.

Information on agroforestry projects in the Aguarico

sector were obtained from the INEFAN office at the Lumbaqui

agroforestry experimental farm and from the FFMV office in

Cascales which also provided the list of farmers involved in

their agroforestry program, the area of project agroforestry

systems established on farms, and number and types of trees

planted by a few farmers.

The Cofan Comuna SinangUe, along the Aguarico River,

was visited and informal interviews were conducted with the


local INEFAN park ranger, the Comuna vice-president, and a

resident farmer who also served as a guide. Information on

agriculture, land use, and plant use (including trees) in

Sinangie was obtained from the visit.

Vegetation Transects

Vegetation transects were included toward the end of

the study to evaluate the structure and composition of

different agricultural systems on colonist farms, Figure

1-2. Tree and crop components were identified and measured

within pasture and crop systems, and in natural forest areas

as well. Most transects were done on farms which had been

surveyed, although a few were not. Transects were done on

14 farms. Five farms were located by the road and 9 along

mule trails. A representative sample of transects in

different agroecosystems and distances from the road was


Within the transects of 50 m x 2 m (100 m2 or .01 ha)

all cultivated plants (coffee, cassava, plantains, etc.) and

all trees (naturally regenerating or planted) greater than 1

m in height were tabulated and measured for height and

diameter. Samples of unidentified species were collected

and preserved for later identification following procedures

recommended by the National Herbarium of Ecuador in Quito.

In total, 32 transects were done: 10 transects on farms


along the road, composed of 6 in pastures and 4 in crop

systems; 20 transects on farms along mule trails, composed

of 8 in pastures and 12 in crop systems (half of these

transects were located at distances greater than 4 km from

the road); and 2 transects in natural forest. Location of

transects are shown in Figure 1-2.

Outline of Thesis

Chapter 2 presents background information that

describes agricultural colonization and deforestation in the

Ecuadorian Amazon and its related problems. Important

factors involved in these processes such as population

growth, land reform, oil production, and government policies

are considered. In addition, the plans, strategies, and

projects currently adopted in the region to resolve the

problems associated with conservation and sustainable

development are discussed.

Chapter 3 provides a biophysical and socioeconomic

description of the study area. It is a synthesis of site-

specific information from the literature on many aspects of

the natural, social, economic, and agroecological


Chapter 4 characterizes colonist farming systems in the

Aguarico sector. Socioeconomic characteristics of the study

area are presented and analyzed, and a brief description of


gender roles in colonist households is given. In addition,

land use and agricultural production on colonist farming

systems of the study area are described. Differences and

comparisons between groups of farms based on location in

reference to the road and age of settlement are discussed.

Chapter 5 describes tree use and agroforestry practices

by colonist farmers. In addition, agroecosystem vegetation

structure is presented. These characteristics are also

analyzed among households at different locations from the

road and stage of farm settlement. These results are

discussed in relation to agroforestry and reforestation

strategies currently pursued in the region.

Chapter 6 offers some conclusions and recommendations

in light of the information provided throughout the



Deforestation and Agricultural Colonization In the
Ecuadorian Amazon

Who's Cutting the Forest

For the most part, deforestation in the Latin American

tropics has been a consequence of agricultural colonization.

Almost 88% of forest clearing in the Amazonian region of

Andean countries (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peri) is

caused by colonization (Mertins, 1991). In the northeastern

province of Sucumbios in the Ecuadorian Amazon, up to 96% of

the annual 43,521 hectares of primary forest cleared from

1977 to 1985 was the result of agricultural expansion of

colonist farms (crops and pastures), 60% of which has been

characterized as "recently colonized" (INEFAN, 1993). This

percentage excludes land utilized for large-scale

plantations or industrial crops like African oil palm

(Elaeis auineensis), and it dispels many of today's

prevalent myths that deforestation in Ecuador's forests is a

direct result of large-scale timber exploitation or oil

exploration and extraction by foreign companies. However,


roads built into forests specifically for these industries

have certainly enabled agricultural colonization.

Population Growth

Ecuador has the highest population density in South

America (36/km2) and the third highest annual growth rate

(2.5%). Demographic pressures on the forests of Ecuador

have been intense (Neill, 1993; Southgate & Whitaker, 1992).

The World Resources Institute's study on deforestation rates

in Latin America ranks Ecuador the second highest with a

rate of forest loss of 2.3% or 340,000 hectares per year

(Rudel & Horowitz, 1993; WRI, 1990). Relatedly, Ecuador

also has the second highest rate of growth in cropland and

pasture in Latin America (2%) through frontier expansion

(Southgate and Whitaker, 1992). Exacerbated by the unequal

distribution of resources, particularly land, in the

highlands and coastal regions, population pressures have

induced colonization into Ecuador's tropical forests

(Uquillas, 1986).

Demographic pressure is not the sole cause of

agricultural colonization and deforestation in the

Ecuadorian Amazon; there are many causes, which jointly,

have created and perpetuated these events. In fact,

agricultural colonization in the region is a phenomenon

linked among a set of interrelated political, economic,


social and environmental occurrences. Government policies

and economics are also obvious agents of colonization and

often responsible for many of the socioeconomic and

environmental consequences from national to farm levels.

Schmink and Wood's (1987) "political ecology" theory

explains how political and economic factors can induce

resource degradation and unfavorable socioeconomic

conditions in frontier zones. The Oriente is certainly a

region where politics and economics, along with population

pressures, have been very influential in the processes of

colonization and deforestation.

Land Reform

A history of inequality in land ownership and scarcity

of land in the highlands and coastal regions of Ecuador is

among the primary reasons for spawning colonization into the

Oriented. Ecuadorian land reform policies after 1964,

characterized as being "redistributive", basically consisted

in converting the large pre-capitalist estates into modern,

capitalist agriculture where only the underutilized lands

were expropriated (deJanvry, 1981). These policies left

things virtually unchanged in terms of land distribution and


From 1964 to 1969 only 1.1% of the land in farms became

part of the land reform which included barely 3.5% of the


peasantry (deJanvry, 1981). In 1960, landowning elites,

making up 0.3% of total families, owned 49.5% of the

agricultural land; peasant farmers, who constituted 80% of

total families, owned 16.6% of the land; and 10.9% of total

families were landless laborers (deJanvry, 1981). Still, in

1974, large estates over 100 hectares occupied 43.1% and

51.9% of farmland in the highlands and coast respectively

(Schodt, 1991).

Thus, the problems of landlessness and poverty in rural

areas were increasing with the growing population. As a

consequence, land reform policy in 1977 concentrated on the

colonization of the Ecuadorian Amazon. This increased the

number of medium-sized family farms between 20 and 100

hectares significantly in the region, and improved land

distribution for the nation as a whole (Schodt, 1991;

deJanvry & Helfand, 1990).

The Oil Boom

The construction of a road into the remote frontier

zone was by no means sparked by the macroeconomic interests

in the growth of the agricultural sector or to relieve land

distribution problems. The discovery of major petroleum

deposits in the Ecuadorian Amazon in 1967 shifted its

macroeconomic policy drastically and dominated Ecuadorian

politics during the decades of the 1970s and 1980s (Schodt,


1991; World Bank, 1990). In 1970, a 200 km road into the

region's oil fields was built in less than a year by the

Texaco-Gulf consortium operating with Petroecuador (Rudel,

1983; World Bank, 1990). The road facilitated the

construction of a trans-national oil pipeline from the

Amazon region to the coast (World Bank, 1990).

The oil boom of the 1970s and 1980s doubled Ecuador's

annual growth in gross domestic product to 9%, raising the

standard of living, employment, and growth in the public and

industrial sectors (Schodt, 1991). The Ecuadorian Amazon

became a region of economic and political importance to the

nation and an attractive region for development. Annual

rate of population growth in the Ecuadorian Amazon from 1974

to 1982 was 4.9 %, double the national average (Schodt,

1991; World Bank, 1990). Obviously, this represented the

massive wave of agricultural settlement that occurred in the

region as a result of access and development brought about

by the oil industry.

Policy and Institutions

Ironically, macroeconomic and price policies during the

oil boom discriminated against the agricultural sector,

discouraging the production of both traditional exports and

basic food crops (Schodt, 1991). At the same time, the

state was putting pressure to increase productivity in the


agricultural sector. Perhaps the most detrimental policy to

natural resources was a law implemented by the Ecuadorian

Institute for Agrarian Reform and.Colonization (IERAC).

IERAC's 1964 Law of Fallow Lands and Colonization, still in

effect, intended to increase agricultural production by

requiring landowners to "utilize" at least 50% of their land

to avoid expropriation (Uquillas, 1986 & 1984; Rudel &

Horowitz, 1993). Moreover, land titles were not given until

farmers cleared at least 10 ha during the first two years,

and paid IERAC a total of up to US$ 500 for the land and

delimitation fees (Hiroaka & Yamamoto, 1980). In the

Oriente, this meant rapid forest clearing and less land held

in reserve or put into fallow on colonist farms. Collins

(1986) argued that IERAC's policies were also conducive to

socioeconomic problems, mainly the failure of poorer

colonist farmers and social differentiation between

wealthier land owners and the landless poor.

Supposedly, colonist farmers in Ecuador's Amazonian

region were to receive government support through integrated

rural development programs (IRD) that would help build

infrastructure and provide agricultural extension and credit

(Rudel & Horowitz, 1993). The National Institute for the

Colonization of the Ecuadorian Amazon Region (INCRAE) was

created in 1978 to plan and administer these organized


colonization projects, but to this date, their

accomplishments are few and barely noticeable (Rudel &

Horowitz, 1993). In reality, IERAC has been providing land

titles (with high economic and environmental prices) to

spontaneously arriving colonists who must comply with the

law and who receive minimum, if any, assistance (Rudel and

Horowitz, 1993; Uquillas, 1986).

Agricultural Expansion and Production

Ecuador's strategy of increasing agricultural

production by putting more land into crops and pastures in

the frontier has been accompanied by decreases in the rate

of growth of yields. This has been demonstrated by

Southgate et al., (1992) to be a relationship common in all

Latin American countries undergoing agricultural expansion.

The low agricultural productivity characteristic in the

Oriente (and. in the nation as a whole) also reflects the

negligible amount of resources invested in agricultural

research, extension, and education (Southgate et al., 1992).

A combination of policies, lack of assistance, and low

productivity faced by colonist farmers in the Oriente have

resulted in increasing pressures on the natural environment

and an unfavorable socioeconomic environment.


Process of Natural Resource Degradation

The main agricultural practice implicated in the

degradation of land in tropical forests today has been the

shorter fallow periods used by farmers, most of them

shifting cultivators (Weischet & Caviedes, 1993; Thiele,

1993; Goldman, 1990). Traditionally, shifting cultivators

practiced a more sustainable land use system by cropping for

1 to 5 years on forested land and allowing much longer

fallow periods, from 15 to 40 years and even more (Weischet

& Caviedes, 1993; Thiele, 1993). This type of land use

system enabled the natural forest and soil to recover from

disturbance and regain fertility, and it greatly suppressed

pests, especially weeds (Weischet & Caviedes, 1993; Thiele

1993; Webster & Wilson 1980). Presently, under an array of

population, socioeconomic, and political pressures, many

farmers of the tropical forests are leaving areas fallow for

an average of only four years, converting deteriorating or

abandoned fields to pasture, and at the same time,

continuously clearing mature forests around frontier zones

(Weischet & Caviedes, 1993; Hecht & Cockburn, 1990; Gradwohl

& Greenberg, 1988). Weischet and Caviedes (1993) describe

the present shifting cultivation systems, the dominating

form of agriculture in the tropics, as "land demanding,

forest squandering, low yielding, and last but not least,

labor intensive" with a low population-supporting capacity.


This description is sobering considering population growth

rates, deforestation problems, and poverty commonly observed

in tropical forest frontiers.

Popenoe (1957), Nye & Greenland (1960), and Sanchez

(1976) were among the first to describe the generally poorer

soils of the humid tropics in terms of nutrient availability

and exchange capacity, demonstrating the impacts of

agriculture, the important role of fallows, and the close

relationship between the natural forest vegetation and soil

fertility. Since then, researchers like Jordan (1985),

Hartshorn (1980), Hecht (1981), and Uhl (1983, 1987) have

further demonstrated the complex nutrient cycles and forest

dynamics in rainforest ecosystems.

The highly weathered and leached soils caused by the

continuous wet and warm tropical climates result in low

nutrient availability and storing capacity. Productive

forests of tropical regions often grow on poor soils through

a close-knit nutrient cycling system maintained by a highly

adapted natural vegetation (Jordan, 1990). Once the forest

is cut, the nutrient-holding mechanism in these cycles is

disrupted increasing nutrient losses which occur at rapid

rates under tropical climate conditions. Nutrient inputs

from burning and fertilization are also quickly lost due the

low-exchange capacity of soils and high rainfall (Weischet &

Caviedes, 1993; Hecht & Cockburn, 1990).


The extent of nutrient loss and the ability of natural

vegetation to regenerate and recover its former productivity

and nutrient dynamics depend on the type and scale of land

use (Uhl & Nepstad, 1990; Uhl, 1983). Schneider et al.

(1991), for example have labeled the process of

transformation of tropical forests to crops then to pasture

and ultimately to degraded land as "nutrient mining." To

the contrary, farmers in the tropics who incorporate a high

diversity of crops including trees, allow the regeneration

and growth of forests with valuable resources, and leave

areas fallow for long periods have been called "natural

resource managers" (Alcorn, 1990a, 1990b; Anderson, 1990;

Posey & Balee, 1989; Denevan & Padoch, 1987). In a sense,

these farmers are imitating the nutrient-conserving

mechanisms and natural succession of tropical forest


Colonization Process and Characteristics

Agricultural colonization in the tropics has been

described as having three stages (Salazar, 1986). In the

"pioneer" stage, the colonist lives off a subsistence

economy and there is hardly any infrastructure present.

During the "consolidation" stage, conditions improve as the

colonist adapts and an infrastructure begins to appear.

Finally, towns begin to get organized and an agricultural


economy is established in the "growth" stage. Each stage

can last from 5 to 10 years, and the success will depend on

the degree of development achieved by the colonists in the

colonization zone (Salazar, 1986).

In Panama and Pert, this process has been described as

first having an extractivee" phase when land and resources

are abundant and growth occurs in the zone, followed by an

"expulsive" stage when the area is already mostly cleared

and overused forcing some people to leave (Moreno & McKay,

1984; Aramburi, 1982). This type of pattern has also been

described by Thiele (1993) in a colonization zone of the

Bolivian Amazon.

A considerable amount of capital and labor is needed to

clear forests, put land into production, and develop farms.

Households must often wait before their land is producing

capital while they survive off subsistence activities. As a

result, the initial stages can be the most difficult and

have a high rate of failure (Salazar, 1986). Once a

commercial infrastructure is present and colonization zones

become developed, a common occurrence in many colonist farms

is the degradation of land and low productivity (Thiele,

1993; Bebbington, 1990; Moreno & McKay, 1984; Aramburu,

1982). As a consequence, many of the poorer farmers get

into debt and end up abandoning or selling their plots which


are typically taken over by wealthier farmers who convert

the land to pasture (Ruiz, 1991; Moreno & McKay, 1984).

The process of agricultural colonization in the

Ecuadorian Oriente has been for settlers to first occupy

land next to the roads in long elongated farm plots, usually

250 m x 2000 m in size which are delimited by IERAC (Hiroaka

& Yamamoto, 1980). Additional farms along mule trails are

then successively developed sometimes up to more than 10 km

from the road, usually forming parallel lines or rows

referred to as lines or respaldos (Rudel & Horowitz, 1993;

Hiraoka & Yamomoto, 1980). Rudel (1989, 1983) and Southgate

et al. (1991), discuss that the process of colonization in

the Oriente has been characterized by intense competition

for land and flow of resources between farmers and local

elites. Forests are being cleared continuously as a

strategy to secure property rights.

Recent settlements occupying the respaldos farthest

from the road usually encounter harsher transportation and

marketing constraints and more credit and land tenure

problems (Fundaci6n Natura, 1992b; Findley, 1988; INIAP,

1987; Collins, 1986; Hildebrand & Espinosa, 1982, Hiroaka &

Yamamoto, 1980; Feaster, 1970). At the same time, these

farmers quickly convert forest into pasture since it

requires less labor and capital, and cattle are easier to


"transport" compared to other market alternatives (Fundaci6n

Natura,. 1992b; INIAP, 1987; Hildebrand & Espinosa, 1982).

Fundaci6n Natura (1992b) claims that recent colonists

continuously clear around 4 ha of their plots each year. To

the contrary, others have noted that colonist farmers are

more restricted in land use and development capabilities due

to factors such as lack of capital, dependence on off-farm

labor, and labor requirements (Estrada et al., 1988;

Aramburi & Garland, 1986; Hildebrand & Espinosa, 1982).

Still, recent settlers may be clearing forests at a very

rapid rate during the initial stages in order to comply with

IERAC's land clearing requirement for titling.

Developed farms on the road tend to be more involved in

market production, especially of cattle, and deforestation

has been more intense (INIAP, 1987; Hildebrand & Espinosa,

1982). Colonization zones in the Ecuadorian Amazon have

been described as socially differentiated with poor and

wealthy landowners in a social environment not conducive to

organization and cooperation (Rudel, 1989; Collins, 1986;

Hiroaka & Yamamoto, 1980).

Conservation and Sustainable Development

Problems with "Sustainability"

Bebbington (1990) demonstrates how changing social,

political, and economic contexts in a Peruvian frontier zone


cause farmers to adopt agricultural strategies and practices

that undermine the type of sustainability achieved through

traditional agroecological practices. The increase in

market orientation and integration among farmers, at the

expense of subsistence production, brings about drastic

changes in their agricultural practices and often

instability in their lives (Bebbington 1990). Farming

households become more dependent on external inputs with

often fluctuating costs and availability and on the prices

of agricultural products which also vary considerably,

adding greater risks to their livelihoods (Bebbington,


The ability of farmers to survive and be

socioeconomically sustainable depends on factors such as

land control patterns, power of intermediaries to determine

prices, markets and economy at the national and

international levels, inflation rates, and the amount of

capital accumulated (Bebbington, 1990). In this

socioeconomic context, resource poor farmers have been

discouraged from practices that promote agroecolgical

sustainability, and conservationists have found it extremely

difficult to sustain natural resources in colonization


In the Ecuadorian Amazon, the socioeconomic environment

(markets, transportation and commercialization


infrastructure, policies, labor, credit, land tenure, rural

development stage, and agricultural research and extension)

tends to strongly influence farmers' land uses and

practices. Although these practices often result in

degraded lands, they tend to be the most economically

rational or possible considering their socioeconomic

environment and constraints (Bebbington, 1990; Loker, 1993).

Colonization and Protected Areas

Conservation problems are intensified when colonization

zones are adjacent to and begin to invade protected areas

like the CCER. The CCER is certainly not alone in this

predicament; five national parks or reserves have territory

in the Oriente. The Cuyabeno Faunistic Reserve and

Limoncocha Biological Reserve in the northeastern Oriente

and the Sangay National Park with territory in the central

Oriente have also been suffering from invasion by colonists

(INEFAN, 1993; Rudel & Horowitz, 1993). Human and capital

investment in the protection of the parks and reserves have

been too low to be able to be useful. The number of staff

in charge of protecting and managing these reserves is

extremely small in relation to the area they occupy. In the

CCER, for example, there are more than 18,000 hectares per

staff member in charge (Southgate & Whitaker, 1992). IERAC

supposedly is not allowed to issue land titles within


protected areas or evict the invaders, yet these farmers

still claim their legal rights to the land through other

channels (INEFAN, 1993). Thus, the reserve personnel are

taking on a virtually impossible job.

Aaroforestry and Sustainable Development

In recent decades, there has been a growing interest in

agroforestry for sustainable development. This is due to

the acclaimed potentials of agroforestry often mentioned in

the literature. These potential include improving farm

production of cash and/or subsistence goods and enhancing

the sustainability of agricultural systems (e.g. Peck, 1984,

Vergara, 1987; Swaminathan, 1987; Soemarwoto, 1987;

MacDicken, 1990; MacDicken & Vergara, 1990). Moreover, it

is discussed as a possible means to reduce deforestation and

manage buffer zones around core protected areas (Nair, 1993;

Peck & Bishop, 1992; Sayer, 1991; Peck, 1984).

Agroforestry development today is concerned with goals

of diversifying farm production, improving the availability

of needed agricultural and tree products, relieving pressure

on conservation areas, sustaining agricultural production on

fragile lands with poor economic development and prevalence

of low-input farming systems, and contributing to the

rehabilitation of degraded land (Wiersum, 1990). Indeed,

the main emphasis toward sustainable rural development,


reforestation, and conservation of natural resources in the

Oriente has been in agroforestry (Cardenas, 1993).

At this stage, most of agroforestry's potentials have

been deduced by experience or qualitative observations but

not experimentally, and many systems, both indigenous and

improved, have not been realistically assessed (Nair, 1993;

Sanchez, 1987). Agroforestry development goals are often

difficult to achieve with small farmers in colonization

zones who usually have scarce labor and capital resource and

insecure tenure, and they are principally concerned in

clearing extensive forest areas and focusing in pasture

development for cattle. Hecht (1993) argues that for small

farmers in colonization zones of the Latin American tropics,

cattle raising is the most rational way of using large areas

of land for longer periods of time, accumulating capital,

and retaining value on farms, and it is a much more

attractive farm development option than agroforestry. The

fact that many indigenous farmers in the Ecuadorian Amazon

abandon traditional agroforestry practices to pursue cattle

raising reflects the present socioeconomic realities in

colonization zones (Uquillas et al., 1992b).

The reasoning behind the agroforestry strategy is based

on the agroecological argument that by intercropping

valuable trees and annual crops agroecosystem diversity is


increased. This can improve efficiencies in the use of

resources (soil, nutrients, water, light, energy, space,

plants, genes, labor) and other biological interactions

(biological pest control, nitrogen fixation, mulching)

(Vandermeer, 1993; Torquebiau, 1992; Alcorn, 1990a; Nair,

1990). By resembling tropical forests, these systems are

considered more ecologically sustainable or stable for the

these regions (Ewel, 1986). Many traditional and indigenous

agroforestry systems described in the humid tropics provide

good indications of the ecological sustainability achieved

by using a high diversity of crops and trees, managing

fallows, and imitating natural forests (e.g. Peck, 1984;

Padoch & deJong, 1987; Alcorn, 1990a, 1990b; Subler & Uhl,

1990; Gliessman, 1993; Padoch & Peters, 1993; Anderson,

1990; Denevan & Padoch, 1987; Posey & Balee, 1989). The

benefits of trees in providing shade, improving light use

efficiency, maintaining soil organic matter, promoting

nutrient cycling, and reducing erosion are strongly

implicated in the sustainabliity of these systems, but this

may not always be the case (MacDicken & Vergara, 1990).

Again, there is has not been adequate experimental research

concerning the actual role and benefits of tree components

in different agroforestry systems in either ecological or

socioeconomic respects (MacDicken & Vergara, 1990; Nair,



Agroforestry has already been adopted by a few projects

as a strategy to improve agricultural production and

decrease deforestation in the Oriente. Plan Bosque, which

started in 1985, provided loans for tree planting and

extension services for two years to help with preparation,

planting, and maintenance. If the farmer succeeds in

establishment, the state forestry agency pays off the loan

and interest, and the farmer repays the loan without

interest to the government after the harvest, ten to twenty

years later (Gradwohl & Greenberg, 1988). However, most

colonist farmers find it difficult and risky to obtain

loans, especially when they face an uncertain responsibility

of having to pay off the loan with interest if their

planting project fails in the first two years.

An agroforestry project in Coca, located in the middle

of the Oriente, was carried out with USAID support from 1985

to 1990 and established on-farm demonstrations based on

traditional systems (Peck, 1990). Valuable timber species

managed from natural regeneration (mostly Cordia alliodora

or Laurel) were grown with coffee (Coffea canephora var.

robusta) and in pastures. Coffee plants were pruned and

intercropped with a ground cover forage legume Desmodium

ovalifolium (Ramirez et al., 1992a and 1992b; Peck & Bishop,

1992; Peck, 1990). The project was able to indicate that


productivity and longevity of these experimental

agroforestry systems was increased substantially; moreover,

the production of timber on farms would be double or triple

that of primary forests, thus reducing pressures on natural

forests and deforestation rates (Ramirez et al., 1992a,

1992b). The high adoption rate of these improved

agroforestry systems found among farmers in the Coca region

has been encouraging (Ramirez et al., 1992a, 1992b; Uquillas

et al., 1992a, 1992b).

An experimental farm has been established near the CCER

through the Lumbaqui agroforestry project which is directed

and conducted by MAG, INEFAN, PROFORS, and GTZ (Deutsche

Gesellschaft fur technische Zusammenarbeit). This project

set up a tree nursery as well as agrosilvicultural

demonstrations and investigations on the experimental farm

with different potential fruit and timber species, mostly

native (Boese, 1992). Presently, however, the nursery is

not being kept up and barely used, and apparently it will be

discontinued. This project has been involved in educating

local farmers about the value of trees and setting up

agroforestry systems on their farms by encouraging farmers

to plant and grow trees (PROFORS, 1993a, 1993b). Currently,

the Lumbaqui agroforestry project is being continued by an

NGO, Fundaci6n Forestal Mano Verde (FFMV) in association

with PROFORS. FFMV and PROFORS are now promoting improved


agroforestry systems on colonist farms through agroforestry

extension agents who try to secure tree planting contracts

with farmers for a small amount of cash (FFMV, 1993a,


However, government institutions and NGOs have not

identified many important socioeconomic and environmental

factors of colonist farming systems that often can interfere

with the success of these projects. In fact, farming

systems research and participatory on-farm experimentation

of agroforestry systems on colonist farms are not being

conducted. The oversight of socioeconomic conditions or

cultural factors (markets, policies, labor, gender

differences, household needs and preferences, etc.) has-been

a typical reason for the failure of some agroforestry

projects worldwide (Saxena, 1992; Dove, 1992; Godoy, 1992;

Chambers & Leach, 1989; Hosier, 1989; Jones, 1988;

Tschinkel, 1987). According to Rocheleau et al. (1980),

ethnobotanical and agroecolgical research are essential for

the development of agroforestry projects. In addition,

Little (1985) emphasizes the need to recognize regional

socioeconomic contexts that may influence local farming

systems and their development. Consequently, due to the

wide variety of environmental and socioeconomic conditions

involved, there has been an emphasis lately on the "site-


specificity" needed for agroforestry planning and

development (Raintree, 1987; Nair, 1993).


Natural Environment

Topoaraphy and Hydroloav

The Aguarico sector varies from 500 m to 1200 m in

elevation (Fundaci6n Natura, 1992b). It is part of the

Lumbaqui plains where the terrain levels out into the Amazon

basin, containing steeper terrain with higher hills (800 to

1200 m) towards the west and alluvial plains (500 m) and low

rounded hills (600 to 800 m) in the east. This sector of

the CCER contains the headwaters of the Aguarico River which

drains into the Napo River, a tributary of the Amazon. The

Due River, which makes a conspicuous sharp bend before

draining into the Aguarico River, also runs through the

Aguarico sector. These rivers are still fast and turbulent

from their steep descent down the slopes of the Eastern

Andes. Deep canyons and ravines are carved by them

throughout the sector. Fast-running creeks and streams are

also ubiquitous.


Heavy rainfalls are typical along the foothills of the

Andes where cool air collides against hot air masses coming

from the Amazon Basin. Annual rainfall averages of over

6000 mm are typical in areas like El Reventador at 1500 m

(INEFAN, 1993; Fundaci6n Natura, 1992b). Mean annual

temperature and rainfall recorded in Lumbaqui (450 m above

sea level) are around 240C and 5400 mm respectively, and

relative humidity hovers at about 80% (Boese 1992). There

is no distinct dry season in the Aguarico sector. Monthly

rainfall is over 300 mm throughout the year with highest

rainfall occurring from March to July and November to

December (Boese, 1992). Temperatures can vary considerably,

getting as low as 180C (INEFAN, 1993).


The soils in the study area belong to the order

inceptisol (Fundaci6n Natura, 1992b). They consist of

Dystropepts on hill slopes, Dystrandepts on hill tops and

plateaus, and Tropaquets on alluvial planes (Boese, 1992).

Dystropepts are acidic soils with low cation exchange

capacity, a depth of around 80 cm, and with drainage not

susceptible to swamping (Boese, 1992). Dystrandepts, which

are also acid, generally contain a layer of humus and cation

exchange capacity is good, but they are susceptible to water


logging (Boese, 1992). Tropaquepts, are also characteristic

of aluminum toxicity and low organic matter content,

although they may be fertile in zones where fine alluvial

sediments have been deposited (Boese, 1992). Soil fertility

varies throughout the region due to the presence of volcanic

ash and alluvial deposits in different areas (Boese, 1992).


The Aguarico sector contains vegetation classified as

premontane wet tropical forest based on the Holdridge (1967)

life zone classification. These forests are taller than

30 m and are characteristic of high botanical diversity, but

valuable timber species are present in low densities

(Fundaci6n Natura, 1992b). Palms (Iriartea deltoidea,

Bactris aassipaes, Euterpe spp., Attalea spp., Geonoma spp.)

are common in the top strata of the forests among trees

including Copal (Protium spp.), Canelo (Nectandra spp.),

Sangre de Gallina (Virola elongata), and Cedro (Cedrella

odorata) (INEFAN, 1993). In the middle strata, species such

as Peine de Mono (Apeiba membranaceae), Caimitillo (Pouteria

spp.), Bamboo cane (Guadua anaustifolia) and tree ferns

(Cyathea spp.) can be found (INEFAN, 1993). Cacao de Monte

(Herrania spp.), Achiote (Bixa orellana) and Platanillo

(Heliconia spp.) are common in the understory (INEFAN,

1993). In addition, agricultural zones (cultivated land,


pasture, fallow, secondary forest) occur in colonized areas

along the sides of the Inter-oceanic road and the Due and

Aguarico Rivers (Fundaci6n Natura, 1992b). Secondary

forests often consist of Guarumo (Cecropia spp.), Laurel

(Cordia alliodora), Balsa (Ochroma pyramidales), and Aliso

(Alnus acuminata), the last growing commonly along river

banks. (INEFAN, 1993). Figure 3-1 is a 1982 aerial

photograph of a section of the Aguarico sector showing

forested and colonized areas.

Socioeconomic Environment


After the Inter-oceanic road was built 25 years ago,

population began to grow significantly in the region. The

petroleum industry and the availability of land attracted

migrants from all over Ecuador (Fundaci6n Natura, 1992b).

Around 70% to 80% of the migrants come from the highlands,

particularly the provinces of Pichincha and Bolivar (Boese,

1993; INEFAN, 1993; Fundaci6n Natura, 1992b). Only between

14% and 18% of the population are originally from Amazonian

provinces and 6% to 14% come from the coast and other

regions (Boese, 1993, Fundaci6n Natura, 1992b). Surveys of

49 migrant families in the CCER conducted by Fundaci6n

Natura (1992b) showed that 53% migrated because of lack of

land in their place of origin, 26.5% migrated for economic

Figure 3-1. Aerial photograph of Aguarico sector in 1982
showing deforestation along the Inter-Oceanic highway and
Due river (Source: IGM, 1985).


reasons and 20.5% for family reasons. The 1987 earthquake

devastated the Aguarico sector and isolated the population

for a year causing some people to leave the area. Still,

the annual rate of population growth in the Parroquia

Lumbaqui from 1982 to 1990 was 5% (Fundaci6n Natura, 1992b).

Total population in the Cantdn Gonzalo Pizarro in 1990

was 4,472 (INEFAN, 1993). Parroquia Lumbaqui had a rural

population (excluding the town of Lumbaqui with 784

inhabitants) of 952 in 1990. Fifty-four percent of this

rural population is male (INEFAN, 1993). The Indigenous

Comuna Chuscuyacu, comprises a population of 120 and the

Comuna SinangUe has a population of 84 (Fundaci6n Natura,

1992b). Like other indigenous groups in the Ecuadorian

Amazon, they have been forced to move internally due to

colonization, usually occupying the most inaccessible and

remote regions (Fundaci6n Natura, 1992b). Population

densities recorded in this region range from 2 to 3

individuals per km2 (INEFAN, 1993). Densities in the

colonized areas are higher since populations are

concentrated along the road and rivers and vast areas of

forest land remain uninhabited.


In the Parroquia Lumbaqui, only ten percent of the

total population over 10 years old is illiterate. This


illiteracy rate is equal to that found in the Cant6n Gonzalo

Pizarro and the whole province of Sucumbios (INEFAN, 1993).

The relatively low proportion is probably indicative of an

aggressive national alphabetization program (INEFAN, 1993).

However, no more than 6% of the population in these regions

has completed secondary education (high school) (INEFAN,


Among a survey of families in the CCER, only 3.6% of

the heads of household completed secondary education

(Fundaci6n Natura, 1992b). In the Cant6n Gonzalo Pizarro,

there are 17 primary and two secondary schools provided by

the state, one of each located in the Parroquia Lumbaqui.

Even the Comunas Chuscuyacu and Sinangie, in spite of their

remoteness, have school houses and resident teachers

(personal observation). Over 65 percent of the population

in Cant6n Gonzalo Pizarro has received a primary education

(INEFAN, 1993).


Health conditions and services are poor in the region.

In the Cant6n Gonzalo Pizarro, there are only two small

medical facilities: a health subcenter of the Ministry of

Public Health (MSP) in the town of Lumbaqui, and a rural

dispensary belonging to the Ecuadorian Institute of Social

Security (IESS) in the small rural community of Recinto


Amazonas. The two closest hospitals for this region include

one in Lago Agrio and a newly constructed public hospital in

Baeza, both about 80 Km from the Aguarico sector. Of the

total live births in the Cant6n Gonzalo Pizarro, only 33%

received professional medical attention (Fundaci6n Natura,

1992b). Respiratory and parasitic illnesses are the most

frequent health problems encountered, and lack of nutrition

accounts for 4% of health complications in the region

(Fundaci6n Natura, 1992b). MSP and IESS, the state agencies

responsible for health services, are completely aware of

their lack of facilities and are attempting to improve them

through international funding (INEFAN, 1993).


Health problems in the region are claimed to be

strongly related to living and sanitation conditions

(Fundaci6n Natura, 1992b). Houses built by colonist farmers

are made from locally cut and processed timber and they are

usually built on stilts with metal roofs. Many houses by

the road are also built with cement blocks. Except for

those on the road, these houses rarely have water, sewage,

or electricity nor luxury items like televisions,

refrigerators, stoves, etc.


The majority of the population apparently enjoys

adequate nutrition (Fundaci6n Natura, 1992b). The diet

consists mostly of staple carbohydrates such as plantain

(Musa paradisiaca), cassava (Manihot esculenta), chontaduro

(Bactris gassiDaes), and rice (Oryza sativa) along with a

variety of protein sources both domestic (chicken, eggs,

cheese, milk, beef, pork) and wild (armadillo, agouti,

doves, fruits, nuts, etc.) (Fundaci6n Natura, 1992b;

personal observation). Although the local rural population

produces much of its own food, imported foods, such as

vegetables and processed food products (tuna, pasta,

sardines, crackers, beverages) are also prevalent in the


Transportation Infrastructure

The unpaved Inter-oceanic road serves as a social and

economic axis in the Aguarico sector. It is the primary

location for all types of services and transactions. Very

few secondary roads with vehicular access are present in the

Aguarico sector. When present, these secondary roads lead

to plots on the second linea, 2 km from the main road. In

the Cant6n Gonzalo Pizarro, there are hardly any vehicular

roads at all with a density of only 0.034 km of roads per

km2 (INEFAN, 1993).


There is an extensive and unknown amount of mule trails

in the region that serve as an important means for many

colonist farmers to take out agricultural products and bring

in household necessities. For those communities on the

Aguarico River, such as SinangUe, it is also possible to

navigate with small motorized canoes, although canoes do not

travel frequently along this portion of the river. The Due

River is not navigable. Two rarely used airstrips were

built by religious missions for the mostly Cofan Indian

community in Sinangue.

Terrestrial transportation on the Inter-oceanic road is

the principal means for importing and exporting goods and

for public mobility in the region. On average, 503 vehicles

(211 automobiles, 66 buses, 226 trucks) per day travel on

the stretch of the Inter-Oceanic road between Quito and Lago

Agrio (Nueva Loja) at the center of the Oriente (INEFAN,

1993). The inhabitants in the study area depend on public

buses (empresas and rancheras) for their regional and

national transportation and on truck services called fletes

for the movement of their agricultural products to major

commercial centers (Quito, Lago Agrio, Santo Domingo)

(INEFAN, 1993; Fundaci6n Natura, 1992b). Large potholes on

the road and mud slides are common after rains. These are


repaired constantly by the army corps of engineers with dump

trucks and road-builders.

Mules and horses are important for transportation on

trails in areas off the road and even locally on the main

road. Heavy traffic of animals and people on mule trails

has deteriorated them in many places and increased

difficulty in traveling, especially after rains. These

trails are maintained by colonist farmers, the main users.

Farmers clear vegetation along trails with machetes, build

small bridges made from tree trunks split in half, and place

empalizados, which are tree trunks and large limbs cut no

more than 1 m in length and set horizontally along swampy

and muddy sections.

Social Organization

The typical forms of social organization by colonist

farmers are the precooperativas required by IERAC to get

their plots delimited and obtain land titles. Other than

that, in the Aguarico sector, precooperativas are usually

not involved in any type of group activities or objectives.

Each household manages its farm individually. Even

indigenous households manage their own farms in the comunas

which were also legally organized to obtain land rights and

state services. Mingas, work groups formed for community

benefits or agricultural labor exchanges among households,


are much more common among farmers in the indigenous comunas

than among colonist farmers in precooperativas. For

whatever reason (socioeconomic differences, racial

prejudices, isolation of households, individuality of

people, or poor infrastructure) organization and cooperation

have been very weak among farmers in the region and even

within precooperativas and comunas. This has been a major

obstacle to development and conservation efforts.

Petroleum and Mining

By far, the petroleum and mining industries are the

most important in terms of value of gross production in the

region (INEFAN, 1993; Fundaci6n Natura, 1992b). Although

many colonists are attracted by employment and economic

opportunities brought by the petroleum industry in the

region, in reality, very few and mostly temporary jobs are

created by this sector (INEFAN, 1993). Similarly, those

colonists involved in mining activities usually depend more

on their agricultural production for income (INEFAN, 1993;

Fundaci6n Natura, 1992b).

In the Cant6n Gonzalo Pizarro, there is one petroleum

camp northeast of the CCER called Bermejo which belongs to

Petroecuador. The camp contains 22 active wells producing

5,500 barrels a day. There is no information on the amount

of the local population employed in the camp; however,


apparently a large fraction of the work force is hired from

outside the region. Small restaurants, bars, and prostitute

houses are established along the road in the Aguarico sector

for workers, truck drivers, engineers, and others involved

with the petroleum industry.

Due to its geographical location, the Cant6n Gonzalo

Pizarro is exceptionally rich in minerals, in particular

gold. There are seven mining concessions, mostly for gold,

operating in the canton, five of these are in the CCER along

the Aguarico, Due and other rivers in the area. The majority

of the gold is extracted through traditional "panning"

methods with only four dredges operating in the Aguarico

river. One person may obtain one half to three grams of

gold a day by panning and 20 grams a day are recovered

through dredging. It is estimated that 20% of the

population, including farmers, in this mineral rich region

(Cant6n Gonzalo Pizarro and Sucumbios) are involved in gold

mining. Family groups of three or four people usually pan

for gold during the drier or summer period for a period of

10 to 15 days. The importantance of mining to many

household economies of the region as well as its ecological

impacts should be further investigated, specifically in

areas within the CCER.

Agriculture and Forestry

Agriculture and forestry, although second in economic

importance, barely equal half the value of petroleum and

mining production in the province of Sucumbios (INEFAN,

1993). However, the agricultural sector is the most

important in terms of employment including 43% of the

economically active population in the province (INEFAN,

1993). Agriculture and forestry are the most significant in

terms of land use. The Cant6n Gonzalo Pizarro has 1,314

farm parcels being claimed and processed through IERAC, but

only 14% of these plots have been granted legal titles.

Land used for agriculture has grown from 23% of the total

area of the Cant6n Gonzalo Pizarro in 1985 to 38% in 1991

(INEFAN, 1993). The area in agriculture totals 86,976 ha,

but this does not include those areas settled illegally or

which have not been intervened by IERAC (INEFAN, 1993).

With the absence of forestry concessions and agro-

industrial plantations in the area, colonist farmers are the

main sources of agricultural and forest products from the

region (INEFAN 1993). Naranjilla (Solanum guitoense), a

tomato-related fruit used for a beverage, coffee (Coffea

canephora var. robusta), cattle, and timber are the most

important sources of income for colonist households (INEFAN,

1993; Boese, 1992). Farmers are also involved in the


production of subsistence crops (e.g. cassava, plantains,

taro). It is estimated that farming households in the

Cant6n Gonzalo Pizarro have an annual gross income of US$

1500 to US$ 1800 (INEFAN, 1993; Boese, 1992). Because of

lower agricultural yields and poorer infrastructure and

rural development in the Ecuadorian Amazon, colonist farmers

of the region are still at a disadvantage competing with the

rest of the national agricultural producers (Fundaci6n

Natura, 1992b; INEFAN, 1993).

Farmers and agricultural areas play an important role

in supplying forest resources. Timber extraction from farms

is often done indirectly through farmers by contractors who

pay low prices for standing trees and remove and market

them. It is also carried out directly by farmers who by

themselves (or by hiring another farmer) cut and process

valuable trees on their land with chain saws and obtain

better prices. In the Cant6n Gonzalo Pizarro, there is one

industrial sawmill in Lumbaqui and a handful of family

carpentry shops where lumber and furniture are sold.

Usually, from 5 to 8 valuable trees per hectare can be

exploited by farmers when they clear their farms (Boese,

1992). Many farmers plant timber trees as well as manage

naturally regenerating species. Timber sales can add

substantially to colonists' incomes. According to Boese


(1992) the annual income generated from timber can be almost

twice that from coffee.

Farming Systems

Slash/Mulch Agriculture

Slash/mulch is the prevalent form of agriculture found

in colonist farming systems of the Aguarico sector. The

slash/mulch system is a variant of the more common slash and

burn shifting cultivation. It is typically found in

tropical regions'with high and continuous rainfall where it

is difficult to burn the cut vegetation. Instead,

vegetational debris from the cleared forests or fallows is

left as mulch to provide nutrients from the decomposition

process. In Latin America, slash/mulch systems have been

described in very wet regions such as the El Choc6 area in

Colombia, the Darien region in Panama, the province of

Esmeraldas in Ecuador, and Amazonian lowland regions of

Ecuador and Colombia (Thurston, 1994).

The slash/mulch practices in the Aguarico sector

consist of cutting smaller trees, bushes, vines and

understory vegetation with a machete. A week to ten days

after clearing the understory, various annual (maize, rice),

semiperennial (cassava, bananas) and perennial (coffee,

cacao, citrus and other trees) crops are planted either by

planting seeds, seedlings, rhizomes, or cuttings, depending


on the crop (Chala, 1987; Hiroaka & Yamamoto 1980). Once

sprouts begin to appear two to four weeks after planting,

the remaining larger trees, with exception of some fruit,

timber, and shade trees, are felled with an ax or chainsaw

over the young crop plants (often causing them considerable

damage). In the Aguarico sector, slash and mulch practices,

named in chronological sequence, were: socola, when the

understory is cleared; siembra or plantio, when crops and/or

grasses are planted; tumba, when the canopy trees are felled

and valuable timber trees harvested (2 weeks after

planting); limpieza or chapeo, weeding; and cosecha,


The maintenance of trees and the presence of mulch

inherent in these slash/mulch systems protect the soil from

erosion as well as provide organic matter to soils and

nutrients to crops (Thurston, 1994; Hiroaka & Yamamoto

1980). These slash/mulch systems are genuine examples of

multilayer agrosilviculture or polyculture, highly regarded

for their agricultural sustainability, longevity, and

development potential in the humid tropics (Thurston, 1994;

Hiroaka & Yamamoto, 1980). Still, these systems have been

scarcely described or researched in comparison to slash and

burn agriculture although their benefits are considered even


better, especially in very wet regions of the tropics

(Thurston, 1994).


Crops found in slash/mulch systems of the Aguarico

sector depended on the length of time since land clearing

and on the crops chosen and needed by the colonist

household. Table 3-1 lists the different crops found in

colonist farms of the study area and their uses and

frequencies on surveyed farms. Maize, used for both cash

and subsistence purposes, is almost always initially planted

by broadcasting in cleared areas and harvested 4 to 6 months

after planting. A second crop of maize can be planted if

soil conditions allow (e.g. when area cleared was primary

forest). Naranjilla (Solanum quitoense) is a frequently

planted semiperennial harvestable after 9 to 11 months for

up to 2 years (Fundaci6n Natura, 1992b). Plantains and

cassava are important semi-perennial subsistence crops.

Cassava usually begins to produce after 8 months and

plantains after a year, and both crops are productive for

a year or two. Coffee (Coffea canephora var. robusta), is

an important perennial cash crop that begins to produce

after 3 years and for up to 15 years, although yields

decline after 4 or 5 years (Ramirez et al., 1992a; Fundaci6n


Table 3-1. List of crops (excluding trees) found on farms
of the Aguarico sector, their main contributions to colonist
households, and frequency (%) of occurrence on farms.

Crops Scientific Name Household Use Occurrence



sugar cane


Zea maize

Orvza sativa


Ananas comosus

cash and



cash and



Musa acuminata



Coffee canephora
var. robusta

Theobroma cacao














citrus Citrus spp. cash 81
Source: 1994 survey by author.
'Includes only farms with citrus planted in densities greater than 50
trees/ha for commercial purposes.


Natura 1992b, Pijnenburg & Portilla, 1991; Hildebrand &

Espinosa, 1982). Semiperennial and perennial crops such as

bananas, coffee, and citrus gradually take over production

in slash/mulch systems (Hiroaka & Yamamoto, 1980).

Consequently, land use and agricultural production found in

cleared areas are highly related to the age of slash/mulch

systems established on colonist farms.

In theory, the longevity and sustainability of

slash/mulch cropping systems established in cleared areas

should be influenced by the components of crops and trees

included, the amount of vegetation cover and mulch retained,

and the type and intensity of land uses and agricultural

practices by colonist farmers. A wide variety of crop and

tree mixtures and land use processes were encountered on

colonist farms of the study area. Crop production on a

cleared plot can vary from a single harvest of maize, to

maize intercropped with Naranjilla, or maize with coffee and

banana, and other combinations of crops which also include

cassava, taro, cacao, citrus and other fruit trees, as well

as timber and shade trees. The type of land use and

agricultural components found on colonist farms depends

largely on the farmers' production choices and household

needs, and on labor resources, capital availability, and

transportation and marketing capabilities.

Pasture and Livestock

Land use for pasture is very common in colonist farming

systems, mostly for beef and diary cattle production but

also for grazing horses and mules. Pasture systems require

less labor per hectare than coffee or naranjilla systems

(Estrada et al., 1988). Consequently, colonist farmers are

inclined to put large portions of their cleared areas into

pasture to comply with IERAC's land clearing requirement.

There is a high frequency of pastures (92%) among farms in

the Aguarico sector characterized by low cattle stocking

rates that averaged 4 ha/head. The proportion of cleared

land on farms used for pastures averaged 46.1%. Still, only

42% of the interviewed households had cattle.

Pastures are established in the traditional slash/mulch

system by planting forage grasses along with maize,

naranjilla or other crops during the siembra. Grasses

usually are ready for grazing in two months and are already

established by the time annual and/or semiperrenial

production ends. Grasses are also planted after crop

production declines in a plot which can be as soon as six

months if only one maize crop is planted or as long as 15 to

20 years if tree crops like coffee, cacao, and citrus are

planted. Fallow lands (young secondary forests or dense

underbrush in old coffee and naranjilla fields) are also


commonly converted to pastures, another reason for large

proportions of pasture on many plots. As a result, pastures

are typically the final type of land use in cleared areas

following crop production.

Pasture lands that were 15 to 20 years old already

appeared degraded and unproductive, void of cattle, and with

poor forest regeneration. These were typical on road sides.

Pasture systems have been regarded as less sustainable and

productive in low-input slash/mulch systems compared to

polyculture since they exhibit less vegetation cover, less

biomass and mulch production, more soil erosion as well as

more swamping and compaction by cattle. Moreover, cattle

may damage crop plants and regenerating trees. These

biophysical characteristics of pasture lands can also be

constraints in forest regeneration. As a result, when land

is converted to pasture, forest recovery is lengthened and

suppressed in the traditional slash/mulch system.

Raising cattle on pastures is an attractive land use

option among colonist farmers because of cattle's easier

marketability and transportation, better profitability, and

capabilities of generating large sums of cash quickly for

emergencies, paying loans, or other household needs. Cattle

are grazed by rotation or tying the animals to a rope and

moving them during the day (sogueo). Pigs and chickens are


also important components of colonist farming systems

especially for subsistence but also for cash. Ninety-two

percent of the interviewed households owned chickens and 54%

owned pigs. In addition, 82% had mules or horses.


Labor has been observed to be a limiting constraint in

colonist farming systems (Estrada et al., 1988). Estrada et

al. (1988) determined it took from 7 to 20 person-days/ha

for the forest clearing process on colonist farms in lowland

northeast Ecuador. Usually, it took less labor in land

clearing for pastures than for crops such as coffee or maize

(Estrada et al., 1988). Land preparation and planting for

crops like plantain, maize, and coffee required around 15

person-days/ha, and for most grasses, preparation and

planting required about 10 person-days/ha. However, a few

forage grasses (e.g., Bracharia decumbens) actually required

more labor for preparation and planting. Weeding requires

much labor on colonist farms, especially in coffee and

pasture systems where weeding consumed up to about 30

person-days/ha per year. Harvesting coffee required the

most labor with up to 60 person-days/ha per year compared to

maize with 9 and plantain with 18 person-days/ha (Estrada et

al., 1988).

Calendar of Activities

There is not a specific or rigid calendar of activities

in colonist farms of the Aguarico sector in regard to

slash/mulch practices and crops utilized in the region.

However, the age of slash/mulch systems can influence labor

requirements in cleared areas. For example, limpiezas or

weedings become less frequent as semiperennials and

perennials begin to dominate a plot, and when a cleared plot

(or pasture) begins to age, weeding decreases from 2 to 3

times a year to once every year or less in old slash/mulch

systems. However, perennial crops like coffee and cacao

still require much labor for weeding and especially for


Due to the aseasonality of rainfall in the region, land

clearing and planting in slash/mulch systems can occur at

any time of the year (Hiroaka & Yamamoto, 1980).

Nevertheless, farmers differentiate a wet season (invierno)

during the rainier months and a dry season (verano) during

drier periods, usually from August to October and in

January. Some farmers would clear land only during the

wetter months. Still, considerable variations were recorded

in the seasons or months when many agricultural activities

are performed, and most farmers claimed they can be done any

time of the year. Hiroaka & Yamamoto (1980) also noticed


this lack of seasonality among activities of colonist


In exception, coffee is usually harvested during the

four to five months of the year when yields are higher. In

lowland regions of northeast Ecuador, this typically occurs

from January to May when rainfall is higher (Hildebrand &

Espinosa, 1982). In the study area it was the opposite,

occurring from July to September and in December to January

during the verano or drier months.

Farm Development and Marketing

"Fresh" or fertile lands are provided by forested areas

on farms that may also provide game, fruit, and timber

resources to the household. These are important especially

to early or poorer colonists. Labor and/or capital are

needed by households for forest conversion and natural

resource harvesting. Household labor is a major

contribution to farm development and production, although

many colonists hire outside labor as well. In the Aguarico

sector, sources of cash for colonist households come mainly

from the sale of naranjilla, coffee, and cattle. Timber

provides an important source of cash during the initial land

clearing process. As farms develop, crops like naranjilla

and coffee enable farmers to obtain capital for cattle.


Marketing aspects of colonist farming systems are

reflective of the poor transportation and economic

infrastructure commonplace in colonization zones. Products

are sold to the intermediaries intermediariess) in

settlements next to the road or passing by in trucks

(fletes) who later sell the products to the larger markets

of Quito, Santo Domingo, or Lago Agrio. However, farm

products such as maize, plantains, cassava, timber, fruit,

and small livestock are also sold within the local

community, contributing extra cash to farm households.

Food, timber and labor are also commonly bartered between

colonist farmers in the Aguarico sector. Timber is also

bought by intermediaries and taken to saw mills or wood

shops in Quito or locally.

Farmers located greater distances from the road usually

transport their products to the road by mule in order to

sell to intermediaries. Cattle are the only products

purchased directly by intermediaries on farms distant from

the road. This is one of the reasons for the attractiveness

of cattle production. Farms along the road have a clear

advantage in transportation and marketing of agricultural

and forestry products.

Credit and Assistance

Almost 90% of agricultural loans, which make up 38% of

all development loans for the region given by the national

development bank, Banco National del Fomento (BNF), are for

cattle production. This is another reason for the

preference of this activity by colonist farmers. Still,

only a small fraction of farmers obtain or desire credit.

In addition, remote farms are discriminated against, largely

because banks require legal titles of plots. Agricultural

assistance is almost non-existent, and according to

Fundaci6n Natura (1992b), over 85% of the farmers do not

receive any assistance. Most of the assistance is involved

with cattle vaccination programs to control diseases or with

reforestation/agroforestry projects (FFMV) conducted

directly or indirectly through MAG, INEFAN, and PROFORS.

However, the human and capital investment contributed

towards agricultural assistance of colonist farmers is

minimal and not very effective in terms of solving farmers'

problems. In fact, there is presently a strong desire among

farmers for assistance in increasing yields of crops, such

as naranjilla and coffee, pasture improvement, pest control

and management, and transportation infrastructure




Because about half of the territory in the Cant6n

Gonzalo Pizarro is part of the CCER, the availability of

land is already restricted and encroachment into reserve

areas is common. Although the reserve was legally

established in 1970, it was not until 1979 that the limits

were defined (Proyecto SUBIR, 1992; Fundaci6n Natura, 1992a,

1992b). Lack of institutional coordination between MAG,

which was in charge of delimiting the CCER, and IERAC

resulted in many areas of colonized plots issued by IERAC to

be within reserve boundaries (Fundaci6n Natura, 1992b). In

turn, IERAC delineated the CCER again in 1986 excluding

areas of colonization along the Inter-Oceanic road

(Fundaci6n Natura, 1992b). Following the earthquake,

another limit was drawn in consideration of the colonization

problem and seismic danger in the region. In addition,

IERAC prohibited those who were settled along the limits to

remain on their lands and proceeded to relocate them during

the following years (Fundaci6n Natura, 1992b). To this date

the actual eastern limits of the reserve are still

inconclusive among the different institutions involved, and

any physical demarcation is far from being completed. This

may explain the confusion and apathy of local inhabitants as

to where are the exact limits of the CCER.


Current encroachment is occurring mostly around the

northeastern area of the reserve along the Due and Aguarico

rivers (Fundaci6n Natura 1992b). However, with the

vagueness of the CCER limits, the actual number of people

living inside the reserve is questionable. Fundaci6n Natura

(1992b), considers the rural population of the Parroquia

Lumbaqui to be part of the reserve and claims a total

population of 5,650 in the CCER. The Chuscuyacu community

and colonist farmers from Chiguapefa and San Pedro del

Chaco, for example, are considered to inhabit the CCER. Not

surprisingly, this is contrary to the way MAG, INEFAN, and

IERAC look at it, and obviously not the way these particular

farmers see it.

Ecuadorian laws for protection of natural areas like

the CCER, although impressive on paper, have been difficult

to enforce. The Law of Forestry and Conservation of Natural

Areas enacted in 1981 gave the responsibility of planning,

management, development, administration, and control of

protected areas to MAG through the forestry institute now

called the Ecuadorian Institute of Forestry and Natural

Areas and Wildlife (INEFAN) (Fundaci6n Natura, 1993; INEFAN,

1993). Due to the immense responsibility, lack of financial

and human resources and institutional conflicts between

IERAC and MAG, the objectives of INEFAN to delimit natural


areas, control invasions, and prevent illegal hunting,

timber extraction and mining in the CCER has been difficult

to achieve (Proyecto SUBIR, 1992). In a region where MAG

has also been negligent in agricultural research, extension

and rural development, it is not surprising that their

record on protection of natural areas is not any better.

Lately, NGOs have become increasingly involved in the

role of conservation and sustainable development for the

CCER region. Specifically, Proyecto SUBIR formed in 1991

with support from CARE International, The Nature Conservancy

(TNC), and Wildlife Conservation International (WCI), has

assumed a major role for the management and protection of

the CCER in association with INEFAN (Proyecto SUBIR, 1992).

The main objectives of Proyecto SUBIR are to 1) strengthen

organization among local communities to facilitate plans for

sustainable natural resource use, 2) develop management

plans for protected areas, 3) develop ecotourism to bring

value to the biological diversity represented in natural

areas, 4) conduct research and monitoring, and 5) improve

the present status of land and biological resource use

(Proyecto SUBIR, 1992).

Maior Problems

Both state agencies and NGOs have identified the main

issues or problems in this region with which they are


confronted. The following problems were identified by MAG

in the region as being responsible for low agricultural

productivity and declining yields in the region (INEFAN,


1. The prevalence infertile soils, especially hills with

red clay.

2. Climatic factors such as excessive rains that cause

nutrient leaching, acidity, diseases and other biological

limitations on crops.

3. The presence of severe pest problems in crops, pastures,

and livestock.

4. Lack of infrastructure for marketing and transportation

of products.

5. Lack of credit and technological assistance to farmers.

Proyecto SUBIR (1992) identified the following problems

for the CCER specifically:

1. The limits of the CCER along the southern and

northeastern parts of the reserve include areas of


2. Colonization is proceeding further into the CCER in areas

along the road, including around Lumbaqui and the Due and

Aguarico rivers.

3. Administration of the reserve is concentrated in the

western highland areas so the eastern areas, like the

Aguarico sector, are being ignored.


4. There is a lack of personnel and resources available to

them for the proper administration and management of the


5. Staff, especially park rangers, are poorly paid,

informed and trained causing lack of motivation and

discontent, especially with regard to field work.

6. Administrative divisions within MAG impede effective

administration of the CCER.

7. The current management plan, which is 14 years old, is


8. Facilities for communication, transportation and

necessary equipment for the staff are lacking.

No doubt Proyecto SUBIR, MAG, and INEFAN are faced with

formidable tasks, and successes and accomplishments in the

Aguarico sector of the CCER have been difficult to achieve.

For example, Proyecto SUBIR failed to achieve cooperation

from the indigenous community Chuscuyacu that is located in

the northeastern area of the CCER along the Due river. They

also have not dealt with colonist farmers of this region to

organize and promote sustainable use of resources.

Currently, the main presence of Proyecto SUBIR in this

region is in the indigenous community of Sinangue, on the

Aguarico river. Plans are being developed for ecotourism, a

questionable conservation strategy in terms of being

effective in controlling invasion into the CCER and


promoting sustainable agriculture and use of natural

resources by the majority of local people. With three

reserves selected as work areas for the Proyecto SUBIR, they

also may have burdened themselves with too big a

responsibility and too many objectives. Admittedly, the CCER

receives the least attention of the three reserves and they

are planning on pulling out entirely from the CCER

(Calder6n, personal communication).



The typical problems associated with agricultural

colonization in the tropics, rapid deforestation rates, low

agricultural productivity, degradation of natural resources,

poverty, and encroachment into protected areas, have also

been recognized in the Aguarico sector near the CCER.

Current development and conservation strategies for

colonization zones, especially near protected areas, promote

integrated land use, forest and buffer zone management,

agroforestry, and alternative agriculture that directly

involve colonist farmers. However, few studies have

described these systems in lowland eastern Ecuador, and even

fewer have analyzed the colonization process.

Distance from the main road, where market centers and

intermediaries are found, as well as age of settlements are

likely determinants of socioeconomic and agricultural

characteristics found on colonist farming systems. This

study examines these spatial and temporal aspects of farming

systems in the Aguarico sector. Based on household surveys

(Appendix 1), socioeconomic, land use and agricultural



characteristics on colonist farms of the Aguarico sector are

described. The impacts of remoteness, or marketing and

transportation constraints, are examined by comparing farms

sampled within three distance categories from the road:

along the road, 1 to 5 km from the road, and more than 5 km

from the road. Relationships between settlement age are

evaluated by comparing farms of different ages located

within the three sections of the study area shown in Figure

1-2. For the most part, the oldest farms were along the

road, Section 1, which was colonized over 20 years ago;

intermediate-aged farms were mostly located in Section 2

(Playas del Due and Chuscuyacu, which was colonized between

15 and 20 years ago; and the most recently settled farms

were in Section 3 (Chiguapeia and El Chaco), which was

colonized less than 10 years ago.

Socioeconomic and land use differences between farms in

the three distance and settlement age categories are

assessed using Kruskal-Wallis (Chi-square approximation) and

Fishers p statistical tests for independence. Multiple

regressions were used to examine relationships between land

use on farms and the independent variables of distance from

the road and age of farm. The research presents information

relevant to integrated land use planning, agricultural


development, conservation, and the adoption by colonist

farmers of sustainable strategies for the region.

Socioeconomic Characteristics

The availability of labor, credit, capital and land

tenure status are socioeconomic factors that may strongly

influence farmers' production strategies and often explain

the adoption or non-adoption of rural development

strategies. Table 4-1 summarizes socioeconomic information

obtained from household surveys for the three distance

categories and Table 4-2 for the three settlement age

categories(Sections). Significance levels (p-value) are

given for Fishers exact test., for nominal data, and Kruskal-

Wallis (Chi-square approximation) test of independence, for

interval data. Important socioeconomic characteristics

differed in farming systems of the Aguarico sector with

relationship to their distance from the road or settlement


Age of Farms

As hypothesized, farms were generally more recently

settled with increasing distance from the road although the

exceptions were notable. The mean age of farms next to the

road was 20.7 years, and the mean ages of farms 1 to 5 km

and more than 5 km from the road were 16.5 and 12.5 years

Table 4-1. Socioeconomic characteristics on colonist farms
in three distance categories from the road showing p-values
for Kruskal-Wallis [X2] and Fishers Exact test of

Socioeconomic Along the road 1-5 km > 5 km p value
Characteristic from road from Road [X2]

Age of
(Std. dev.)

(Std. dev.)


Full time
Part time

Origin of



Land Titles


Hiring Labor



2nd Farm






86% Highlands
9.5% Amazonian
4.8% Other'

76% 2"d Hand
90% Bought












46.7% Highlands
33.3% Amazonian
28% Other'

53.3% 2nd Hand

53.3% bought












28.6% Highlands
50% Amazonian
21.3% Other

92.8% Original

92.9% Colonized




















n 21 15 14

Source: 1994 survey by author.
includes coastal provinces and



Table 4-2. Socioeconomic characteristics on colonist farms
in three settlement age categories showing p-values for
Kruskal-Wallis [X2] and Fishers Exact test of independence.

Section 1 Section 2 Section 3
Socioeconomic Along the road Due-Chusc. Chig.-Chaco p value
Characteristic >20 years 15-20 years <10 years [X2]

Age of
(Std. dev.)

(Std. dev.)


Household Labor

Full time
Part time

Origin of



Land Titles


Hiring Labor



2nd Farm






86% Highlands
9.5% Amazonian
4.8% Other*

76% 2" Hand
90% Bought












16.9% Highlands
38% Amazonian
11.1% Other'

61.1% Original

66.7% Colonized












36.3% Highlands
27.3% Amazonian
36.4% Other'

81.8% Original

63.6% Colonized




















Sn 1 21 18 11
Source: 1994 survey by author.
'includes coastal provinces and Colombia.


respectively. Land along the sides of the road was quickly

colonized. Ages of farms along the road ranged from 19 to

26 years and were settled within the first 7 years after the

road was built. However, in the Aguarico sector, settlement

of farms along mule trails has not been that orderly or

systematic. At farther distances from the road there were

larger variations in the ages of farm settlements, ranging

from 2 to 26 years.

The flatter alluvial plains of the Due River,

containing farms of the Precooperativa Playas del Due and

Comuna Chuscuyacu (Section 2), were also mostly settled

during the earlier periods of colonization after the road

was built. The average farm age in Section 2 was 17.7 years.

Some farms belonging to the indigenous community,

Chuscuyacu, were established more than 5 km from the road as

long ago as 26 years. Only one "recent" farm (3 years of

age) was found established in Chuscuyacu, 8 km from the

road. The majority of recently settled farms were located

in the hillier region along the Due River, Section 3

(Chiguapeia and El Chaco), although there were a few farms

located beyond 7 km from the road which were settled over 20

years ago. These households were also indigenous to the

Ecuadorian Amazon.

Residency of Households

The average time of residency among colonist households

on farms in all three distance categories from the road was

close to 11 years, and there was no significant difference

in the years of household residency for the three distance

categories. However, households in Section 2 had the

highest average residency (13.8 years) reflecting the

earlier and more stable settlements of Amazonian natives in

the Comuna Chuscuyacu. Most of the newer residents were

found in Section 3 at greater distances from the road.

There was a weak significant difference in years of

household residency on farms for the three settlement age


Household Size and Labor

The average size of households in the study area ranged

from 6.6 among farms along the road to 8.3 on farms more

than 5 km from the road. However, there were no significant

differences in household size for the three distance and

settlement age categories. The amount of household labor

available (part-time and full-time) was higher at greater

distances and along both mule trail sections. There was a

significant difference in total available household labor on

farms for the three distance categories and a weak

significant difference in total household labor for the


three settlement age categories. Household sizes varied

considerably in the study area ranging from 1 to 20; some

households contained extended as well as nuclear family


Origin of Colonists

The majority of households (50%) located in areas more

than 5 km from the road and in Section 2 were indigenous to

the Amazonian provinces. This reflects the predominance of

Quechua-Quijos Indians settled in more remote areas like El

Chaco in Section 3 and especially Comuna Chuscuyacu in

Section 2. In contrast, on farms along the road and between

1 and 5 km from the road the majority of families came from

provinces of the highlands (85.7 and 46.7% respectively).

In Section 3, there was a greater proportion of colonists

farmers from the coast and Colombia who were recent

settlers. Since IERAC does not grant land to non-nationals,

Colombian migrants obtained land by marrying Ecuadorian

citizens or through illegal second-hand transactions. There

was a significant difference in the origins of colonist

households for the three distance and settlement age


Land Acquisition and Tenure

In the study area, the majority of households along the

road were second (or even third) occupants of farms (76.2%).

However, on farms 1 to 5 km from the road and more than 5 km

from the road, the proportion of original occupants

increased from 46.7 to 92.8% respectively. In the recently

colonized Section 3, 82% of households were original

occupants on farms while in Section 2, 61% were original

occupants. There were significant differences in the

proportions of original and second-hand occupants on farms

for the three distance and settlement age categories.

The survey results showed that a large majority (90.5%)

of households along the road claimed to have "bought" their

farms, while only 9.5% claimed to have "colonized" them. In

that sense, many households along the road may have actually

obtained their farms from the original settlers (or land

speculators) and not through IERAC. The opposite occurs

among households 1 to 5 km and more than 5 km from the road

where respectively 53.3 and 92.9% of the households had

colonized their farms. Around two-thirds of the households

in both Sections 2 and 3 had colonized their farms and a few

in Section 2 had inherited their land. There were

significant differences in the proportions of bought and

colonized farms among surveyed households for the three

distance and settlement age categories.


This may also be related to the legal ownership of

farms among households in the Aguarico sector. Sixty-seven

percent of households living on farms near the road had

legal land titles while 46.7 and 14.3% of households 1 to 5

km and more than 5 km from the road respectively had legal

titles. In the farthest distance category, 57.1% of the

households did not have legal titles and an additional 28.6%

responded that they were still in the process of obtaining

their titles. The majority of the households without land

titles were located in the recently colonized section

(Chiquapefa-El Chaco) totaling 72.7%. In the Playas del Due

and Chuscuyacu section, 61.1% of households did not have

land titles, most of them belonging to the Comuna

Chuscuyacu. There were significant differences in the

amount of households with and without land titles for the

three distance and settlement age categories.

Households occupying farms along the road may have come

into the region with enough capital to buy the land from

original settlers or land speculators since the majority of

them have been able to obtain legal titles. In contrast,

households colonizing land off the road may have not yet

paid for their farms or have not been involved with IERAC to

obtain their legal titles. This was more notable among

recent settlers in Section 3, although many of the older


residents in Comuna Chuscuyacu were still without legal

titles to their farms. There was noteworthy confusion about

the legality of some colonized farms in the study area.

Moreover, being a sensitive subject, it is also very

probable that some of the households may have lied about the

legal ownership of their farms.

Some farmers of Chuscuyacu claimed a "global" title,

specially granted to indigenous communities, for all the

Comuna's land collectively. However, Fundaci6n Natura

(1992b) reports the area of Comuna Chuscuyacu as not being

legalized yet and the land of Precooperativa Chiguapefa and

El Chaco as not being negotiated by IERAC. To the contrary,

the IERAC office in Baeza had maps that showed that farms of

the Comuna Chuscuyacu and Precooperativa Chiguapefia were

being negotiated and had been delimited. If anything, this

demonstrates some of the confusion with land intervention by

IERAC and legality in the region.

Pressures for more agricultural land are already

occurring in the Aguarico Sector. Currently the Comuna

Chuscuyacu is petitioning through IERAC and INEFAN for

territory within current borders of the CCER (F. Alvarado,

President of Comuna Chuscuyacu, personal communication).

Similarly, some farmers of the Precooperativa Chiguapefia who

have farms smaller than 50 ha (20 to 30 ha) were eager to


expand their farms to 50 ha which would fall within the

current CCER limits. Moreover, there are households at

greater distances in the Chiguapefa-El Chaco region which

have settled on land without any intervention from IERAC

(Fundaci6n Natura, 1992b; INEFAN park rangers, personal

communication). As a result, problems of colonist invasions

and farmers clearing land within CCER boundaries were common

in the study area. Often, the invaders involved relatives

who had been invited by families in the study area (INEFAN

park rangers, personal communication and personal


Off-farm and Hired Labor

The majority of households along the road (61.9%) were

hiring farm labor. Among households 1 to 5 km from the

road, 26.7% hired farm labor, and none of the households

more than 5 km from the road were hiring. There were more

households in Section 3 (18.1%) who were hiring labor than

in Section 2 (11.1%) although most households in both these

sections did not hire. There were significant differences

in the proportions of households hiring and not hiring farm

labor for the three distance and settlement age categories.

The proportion of households involved in off-farm

employment was highest among farms 1 to 5 km from the road

(46.7%) and lowest more than 5 km from the road (14.3%).