Economic Botany

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 389–406 | Cite as

Development policy, forests, and peasant farms: Reflections on Huastec-managed forests’ contributions to commercial production and resource conservation

  • Janis B. Alcorn


The Huastec Indians of northeastern Mexico manage their forests in an indigenous system that integrates commercial and subsistence production. Elements of primary and secondary forest coexist with introduced species in this diverse silvicultural structure which complements the swidden and permanent agriculture fields of the Huastec farmstead. The forest’s direct production of the food, timber, and fuel resources discussed here buffers the Huastec peasant family against market fluctuations and the failed harvest of a single crop. The Huastec system of forest management offers an alternative pattern to the agroforestry and plantation schemes now being suggested for development in the tropics. It is an alternative that provides protection for wild genetic resources while it contributes to the combination of commercial and subsistence agriculture so important for the successful modernization of peasant agriculture. The documentation of this system demonstrates that ethnobotanists and economic botanists have an important but unrealized role to play in the protection of biotic resources and in the development of sustained yield agroecosystems for peasants. The contributions of ethnobotanists are particularly valuable because they can find where and why useful wild species persist in agroecosystems. A greater effort to direct the attentions of policy makers to the value of ethnobotanical knowledge is needed.


Tropical Forest Economic Botany Green Revolution Tropical Moist Forest Silvicultural System 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Janis B. Alcorn
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BotanyUniversity of Texas at Austin

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