Photo Essay

Oil, Roads, Settlers and Timber: Changing landscapes and livelihoods in Ecuador’s Amazon

Forest products, especially timber, are still an important part of many people’s livelihoods in this region.
For smallholders in Ecuador’s Amazon, timber represents up to 50 per cent of family income.

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A recent Center for International Forestry Research study found that timber is an important part of the survival strategies of smallholders in Ecuador’s Amazon.

In some communities, it constituted up to 50 per cent of families’ income, although this varied from province to province and between indigenous and colonist villages.

In Orellana, the sale of timber made up, on average, 22 percent of the total income of Kichwa communities like Andi’s; but 10 percent of the income of colonist ones. In Napo, those numbers were almost reversed, with indigenous communities relying less on timber than colonists.

However, the volumes of timber extracted by these communities are not large. In Napo between August 2011 and September 2012, families working informally on average sold 10 cubic metres of wood each (around 12 trees, although this depends on the tree species.)

And how much they do extract depends on external factors: whether they have agricultural alternatives, if they can get work outside the community, if a family member is sick, how many children need school materials.

This story is part of a multimedia package on the Amazon rainforest. More at

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