Aguajales in Loreto, Peru: Environmental Services of the Aguajales and the Opportunities for a Global Business for the LoretoRegion
Angel Salazar Vega
Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonía Peruana
Aguajales are palm tree forests growing in hidromorphic soils. That condition is the cause of high levels of organic matter in the soil due to the low decomposition rates. Aguajales are the largest carbon stores among Amazon terrestrial ecosystems, storing close to 1800t/ha of equivalent CO2
. Carbon is stored in the biomass of palm and trees growing in the aguajales, but it mainly is stored in the soil due to the low decomposition rates of the organic matter.
The fruits from the aguajales, the aguaje, are in great demand by the inhabitants of Iquitos. Fruits are consumed directly, or processed as refreshments, the aguajina, or as ice creams and popsicles. The demand generated by that way of consumption is satisfied by approximately 20t of fruits per day.
The marketing of the fruits generates a chain of value that creates employment in both rural and urban areas. In Iquitos alone, close to five thousand jobs are generated by the selling of aguaje fruits. Most of those employed are women who generate their own employment.
The large carbon store capacity and the employment generated by the selling of fruits from the aguajales are primarily environmental services, with associated social services provided by those ecosystems.
In the Peruvian Amazon, there are close to 5,300,000 hectares of aguajales, five million of which are in the Loreto Region. In Peru, there is no other crop that is planted to such an extension and that is ready to be managed and to obtain benefits from its harvesting.
The benefits that can be obtained by the harvesting of the aguajales are much more diverse than the ones that are traditionally obtained. These are the so-called strategic products, those obtained by providing added value to the aguaje pulp. These products include antioxidants, solar protectors, and high-quality oils for the cosmetics industry. An additional benefit that could be obtained is the added value of the ecosystem through the possibility of obtaining payments for the environmental services that the aguajales provide.
The Regional Government of Loreto should join efforts with other institutions and declare aguajales as emblematic ecosystems of the Loreto Amazonian and initiate joint efforts to obtain the economic, social and environmental benefits that these ecosystems can provide.
To tackle that objective it is necessary to guarantee the rights of possession of the communities living close to aguajales, who number nearly 1800 and are the main actors involved in the managing and harvesting of the aguajales. In the same way institutions should organize their efforts to promote the good management and above all to get organized to try to obtain payments for the environmental services that the aguajales can provide. All of those efforts will need a marketing campaign to sale the strategic products and the added value of the aguajales ecosystems.
Let us get organized, as the financial benefits that can be obtained from the aguajales are far greater than those obtained by the exportation of timber and any other agriculture crop already planted in our region. Our region could lead the negotiation on reduced emission by deforestation and degradation; those are the next steps in the global environmental business agenda.
Please see our
Reprint Guidelines for details on republishing our articles.