Does trading non-timber forest products drive specialisation in products gathered for consumption? Evidence from the Brazilian Amazon
Diversification is a hallmark of family-based rural production, but what happens when autarkic rural communities integrate into markets? Economic theory predicts that households will maintain diversified strategies when faced with risk; however, many studies have claimed that openness to markets drives specialisation to enhance returns. Nevertheless, there is little evidence about the association between trade in non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and the diversity of NTFPs consumed. Relying on a household survey and systematic observations of Brazilian Amazonian Caboclos, we evaluated whether exposure to NTFP markets (effort and cash income) correlates with the diversity of NTFPs consumed (richness and Simpson diversity). The results were conflicting. First, there was variation across NTFP subtypes: although the variety (richness) of terrestrial NTFPs consumed (vegetables and hunted animals) was greater in households trading NTFPs, the richness of fish consumed was lower because fishing could not be pursued concurrently with activities related to NTFP trade. Second, the observed effects differed across indicators of diversity, which shows that intensification in the use of a few resources may occur. Third, the associations with alternative definitions of exposure to the NTFP market also differed. These results indicate that NTFP markets do not necessarily undermine local consumption diversity.
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