, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 310–321 | Cite as

The Role of Ethnobotanical Skills and Agricultural Labor in Forest Clearance: Evidence from the Bolivian Amazon

  • Victoria Reyes-García
  • Unai Pascual
  • Vincent Vadez
  • Tomás Huanca
  • TAPS Bolivian Study Team


Research on the benefits of local ecological knowledge for conservation lacks empirical data on the pathways through which local knowledge might affect natural resources management. We test whether ethnobotanical skills, a proxy for local ecological knowledge, are associated to the clearance of forest through their interaction with agricultural labor. We collected information from men in a society of gatherers–horticulturalist, the Tsimane’ (Bolivia). Data included a baseline survey, a survey of ethnobotanical skills (n = 190 men), and two surveys on agricultural labor inputs (n = 466 plots). We find a direct effect of ethnobotanical skills in lowering the extent of forest cleared in fallow but not in old-growth forest. We also find that the interaction between ethnobotanical skills and labor invested in shifting cultivation has opposite effects depending on whether the clearing is done in old-growth or fallow forest. We explain the finding in the context of Tsimane’ increasing integration to the market economy.


Ethnobotanical skills Labor inputs Market integration Slash-and-burn agriculture Tsimane’ (Bolivia) 



Research was funded by grants from the programs of Biological and Cultural Anthropology of the National Science Foundation (0134225, 0200767, and 0322380). Thanks go to R. Godoy for comments to a previous version of this article, and to GT-Agroecosystems, ICRISAT-Patancheru, for providing Reyes-García with office facilities.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Victoria Reyes-García
    • 1
    • 2
  • Unai Pascual
    • 3
    • 4
  • Vincent Vadez
    • 5
  • Tomás Huanca
    • 6
  • TAPS Bolivian Study Team
    • 7
  1. 1.ICREA and Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia AmbientalsUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Heller School for Social Policy and ManagementBrandeis UniversityWalthamUSA
  3. 3.Department of Land EconomyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  4. 4.Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3)BilbaoSpain
  5. 5.ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics)PatancheruIndia
  6. 6.CBIDSI-Centro Boliviano de Investigación y de Desarrollo Socio IntegralSan BorjaBolivia
  7. 7.Tsimane’ Amazonian Panel Study (TAPS)San BorjaBolivia

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