Achieving the sustainability of conservation agreements in El Caura, Venezuela

Published: 21 December 2018
Last edited: 01 October 2020
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To achieve sustainability in conservation agreements in El Caura, Phynatura has generated social, financial and conservation capacities in local communities. Activities related to environmental education, environmental monitoring, accounting for small businesses, among others, result in conservation, local organization, marketing of non-timber forest products and trained communities. With all these elements that guarantee conservation in the Conservation Agreement Suapure within the Caura Forest Reserve, it is time to achieve sustainability through the consolidation of communities as the main actor in conservation agreements.


South America
Scale of implementation
Forest ecosystems
Tropical evergreen forest
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Gender mainstreaming
Indigenous people
Local actors
Protected and conserved areas governance
Sustainable financing
Sustainable livelihoods
Traditional knowledge
Loss of Biodiversity
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Infrastructure development
Physical resource extraction
Changes in socio-cultural context
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 10 – Reduced inequalities
SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Aichi targets
Target 7: Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 18: Traditional knowledge
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge


Forest Reserve El Caura, Venezuela
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In an economy with an uncertain future as the Venezuelan economy, simple actions become challenging. In the Caura basin, illegal gold mining offers a high compensation compared to traditional income. Therefore, achieving sustainability and adding other areas under this scheme in itself is a challenge. Actions such as the development of value chain analysis strategies to promote the commercialization, in fair and social terms, of other not-timber forest products with high potential in the region; consolidate the environmental education strategy based on conservation actions and benefits, with the development of knowledge at all levels of basic education and community workshops; and the creation of a trust fund with the long-term sales commitments of NTFPs, cooperation and donations to ensure that the conservation and sustainability actions of the agreements are really necessary.


The African descent people of Aripao, 60 families, and the indigenous community of La Colonial, 24 families, receive direct and indirect benefits from the commercialization of NTFP and compensation for environmental monitoring activities.

How do the building blocks interact?

The Conservation Agreement is the instrument that supports the trisectorial alliance represented by civil society (NGOs), communities and the private sector. First, the NGO Phynatura created community capacities, designed and implemented monitoring programs, and measured the results and linking the different actors. Second, the local community of Aripao was organized into a Civil Association to be able to administer resources and implement actions. Third, Givaudan acts as the purchaser of the sarrapia (Dipterys punctata) a non-timber forest product collected by the community.

Once the activities reached a satisfactory result, other communities were invited to participate. In this case, the community of Aripao is responsible for generating the capacities of the indigenous community The Colonial, providing support from the design of the Conservation Agreement to the training of different activities such as environmental monitoring, harvesting sarrapia, accounting, among others.


In this way, the conservation agreement is a block where other blocks can be built, such as the inclusion of other communities in sustainable initiatives.


Currently, 149,600 hectare of forest in the lower Caura river basin (200 km from Ciudad Bolívar and 400 km from Caracas, Venezuela) are under conservation which represents 3% of the Caura river basin, reducing deforestation in 5.6% of the basin and protecting 210 fauna species. This conservation benefts 43% of the families from the related communities through direct and indirect impacts of international donors and trade of non-timber products.



The people of Aripao have African origins; since the colonial era, they have largely gone unnoticed by modern Venezuelan history. At present, its inhabitants are considered as the first conservation community in Venezuela. 

From it ancestral origins, the community of Aripao has based its survival on its relationship with the forest. Since its arrival in the Caura in the 19th century to 1960, it was a semi-nomadic population dedicated to the harvesting of forest products, fishing, hunting and small-scale agriculture. The height of the town occurred in 1840-50 when the world demand for natural forest products attracted immigrants from neighboring states. In that period, there were conflicts between the Aripao people and the family in charge, the Jimoes. This family occupied and exploited the Suapure forest. After the departure of the Jimoes, the Aripao people managed it collectively due to their deep knowledge of the forest and its economic link with the use of the almond of sarrapia or cumarú (Dipterix punctata), a product that today continues to bepart of their cultural identity.

The harvest of the almond of sarrapia has been one of the most important activities in these forests. "In the decade of the 30s and 40s the sarrapia harvest was the main activity where we all participated as a family and it was collected on a large scale", recalls Manuel Martínez, connoisseur of stories, legends and myths.

Today the threats of expansion of the agricultural frontier, logging, commercial hunting, and uncontrolled and intensified fishing are creating conflicts between the Aripao people and foreigners. Additionally, illegal mining of gold began upstream of the Caura river, undermining the tradition and culture of coexistence with the forest.

Faced with this situation and taking advantage of the tradition of harvesting the sarrapiales of the Caura, a Conservation Agreement in an alliance with Conservation International and the French perfume company Givaudan was made, preserving 116,000 ha of the forest with the commitment to sustainably harvest of sarrapia in exchange for economic benefits to the community. From this agreement, the recognition of the territory allows the land demarcation by the people to initiate the demand for their territorial rights.



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Luis Jimenez