Public extension services play a key role in the implementation of strategies for rural development based on the sustainable management of natural resources. However, the sector suffers from restricted financial and human resources. Using experiences from participatory action research, a strategy for rural extension in the Amazon was defined to increase the efficiency and the relevance of external support for local resource users. This strategy considered activities initiated and coordinated by local people. Short-term facilitation visits provided continuous external support for the purpose of establishing locally based planning and learning mechanisms. In collaboration with the municipality of Muaná in the Eastern Amazon, the strategy was tested in two traditional communities Monte Moriat and Boa Esperança. Both communities recognized as most important the need to reduce their dependence on açaí (Euterpe oleracea Mart.), the principal source of food and income. This forest resource has been overexploited, seriously affecting açaí stands and diminishing the forest benefits fundamental for survival. Two local groups decided to raise chickens as a way to reduce nutritional problems and as an alternative source of income. Supported by monthly, short-term planning and evaluation visits, the groups managed to achieve significant progress in their endeavor. The groups identified (1) the control of decision-making and information, and (2) the absence of external obligations to be the greatest advantages of the development initiative. The study confirmed the potential of participatory strategies for public extension in the Amazon. Special attention was given to realistically define the role of forests for local development. However, drastic measures are necessary to smooth the way for real participation in governmental and non-governmental organizations acting in the Brazilian Amazon.
Topic: forest resources,rural development,extension,participation,action research
Publication Year: 2005
Source: Agriculture and Human Values 22(4): 435-450