Energizing agroforestry: Ilex guayusa as an additional commodity to diversify Amazonian agroforestry systems

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Abstract

Guayusa (Ilex guayusa) is a native tree of the western Amazon region grown by indigenou farmers in traditional agroforestry systems. Its leaves are used as a drink similar to tea, which is now commercialized and marketed outside of the Amazon. To assess the impacts from the
early stages of commercial guayusa production, we conducted interviews in four commercial guayusa-producing communities with indigenous guayusa farmers in the Ecuadorian Amazon. We focus on their experiences and critically discuss and speculate about the socio-ecological implications of the expanding commercialization of guayusa, particularly in relation to propositions of this special issue. Results reveal that revenues from guayusa have not overtaken those from other cash crops. Commercializing guayusa can have benefits for farmers and the environment, provided that rigorous criteria that measure social and environmental impacts are adhered to. Furthermore, guaysa production is characterized by vertical integration where many individual farmers supply one processing and wholesale company in a short value chain fostering a locally tailored certification approach that is able to exert the continuation of the traditional agroforestry practices. Yet, sustainability initiatives, standards and certification only provide partial solutions for protecting ecosystem services in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

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Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
  • Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-203
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystems Services and Management
Volume13
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Mar 16
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes