The Center for Amazon Community Ecology’s mission is to promote the understanding, conservation, and sustainable development of human and other biological communities in the Amazon region.

Our main goals are to:

Study the ecology, sustainable harvest and marketing of tropical forest products.
Assist forest-based peoples to sustain local resources and strengthen their communities.
Help connect Amazon communities with partners in the U.S. and elsewhere to support forest conservation and other local development goals.


The main strategies for achieving our goals are research, community support, and education. This will include investigating the ecology and sustainable harvest of non-timber forest products (like resins, fruits and fibers) and assisting indigenous and other forest-based communities to manage and market them to support local development and conservation.  This will require reaching out to and connecting many people and communities in the Amazon and abroad.

Program Overview

The overall goal of the Center is to promote conservation and development that will sustain diverse human and other biological communities in the Amazon region.  We specifically wish to improve the understanding of Amazon ecology, help strengthen the region’s traditional communities, and educate the public about key Amazon environmental concerns.  Our programs will focus primarily on researching the ecology, and promoting the sustainable harvest and marketing of non-timber forest products (NTFPs).

Indigenous and other traditional people collect thousands of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) for food, medicine, construction, and other purposes.  These products include fruits, fibers, resins, oils and a variety of animal products.  Forest people use many NTFPs in their daily lives and sell some to buy goods not available in the forest.  Helping communities to sustainably harvest and sometimes market NTFPs can help enhance their cultural traditions, local economy and forest conservation.  Supporting peoples’ intimate knowledge and use of plants for traditional medicines reinforces the connection between healthy forests and a community’s well-being and reduce the need to burn forest to raise cattle or cash crops to buy other foods from the city.  People can sell NTFPs as one way to buy basic necessities and help local development projects.  

There are ecological and other challenges to sustainably and profitably harvesting NTFPs.  Growing communities can easily over-harvest NTPFs that commonly used in their daily lives or collected for commercial purposes.  It is also not easy to make a good profit harvesting and selling NTFPs.  It may be too difficult or expensive for remote communities to send some products to market.  Harvesters that sell raw or slightly processed NTFPs receive very little money for their products.

The Center  helps forest-based communities in the Amazon address these and related challenges through three main program areas: Research, Community Support, and Education and Outreach.  Research projects will investigate the ecological, social, and economic aspects of culturally and commercially important NTFPs in the Amazon region.  Community Support projects will help partner communities develop specific management and marketing programs for NTFPs and provide support for other local development projects.  Education and Outreach programs will publicize current Amazon ecology and community issues, create partnerships with Amazon community groups, and enlist public support for Center programs and goals.

Copal Resin Project
In July 2006, the Center launched its first research project to study the ecology and sustainable harvest of copal resin.  The first phase of this project is being done at the Jenaro Herrera research station on the Ucayali River in cooperation with the Peruvian Amazon Research Institute (IIAP). It has focused on understanding the relationship between this aromatic resin and the insects that stimulate its formation and use it.  

Handicraft partnerships
The second phase of the copal project is working with Bora native communities in the Ampiyacu River region of Peru to assess the available quantity of copal resin and distilling resin samples into essential oil. The goal is to make a high-quality oil the communities can sell to perfume companies.

CACE is also working with artisans in the Ampiyacu, Tahuayo and Ucayali River areas to develop and market innovative handicrafts with chambira palm fiber and rainforest plant seeds.  These include guitar straps, belts, shopping bags, and many kinds of jewelry.  CACE returns 20% of the proceeds from selling these crafts to the communities to support their health, education and conservation needs.