Artisan Non-Timber Forest Products in Darien Province in Panama: The Importance of Context

Artisan Non-Timber Forest Products in Darien Province in Panama: The Importance of Context


Non-timber forest products (NTFP) have been used for centuries to obtain useful materials. There has been a recent shift in the study of NTFP use, expanding from focusing on a single species or a single community to consider more variables, such as spatial, temporal and socio-political variables of NTFP harvest, use and management. This study aims to continue this trend by examining the use of NTFP by artisans of Wounaan and Emberâ households in Panama.

Goals & Methods

Beyond examining a range of artisinal NTFP, this study also aims to demonstrate the need to incorporate spatio-temporal and socio-political considerations with ecological ones when evaluating NTFPs in order to provide a more robust understanding of natural resource use and management. The study was conducted between 1997 and 2001. It examined both the ecology and socio-economics of three artisanal non-timber forest products of eastern Panama, primarily in the Darien province. The authors established long-term demographic plots of P. seemannii and conducted natural history observations, participant observation of harvest and semi-structured interviews of artisans and vendors.

Conclusions & Takeaways

The study found that tagua (Phytelephas seemanni) seeds were used for carvings, cocobolo (Dalbergia retusa) wood was used for carving, and chunga (Astocaryum standleyanum)  fibres were used for basket making. Moreover, each of these species had vastly different spatio-temporal and socio-political variables which contributed to a range of ecological effects. The authors conclude stressing that the incorporatong of ecological, spatial, temporal, social, and political variables not only better supports findings but also provides answers to questions that were not asked at the beginning of the study. 



Runk, J. Velásquez, Pinel Mepaquito, & Floriselda Peña. (2004) "Artisanal non-timber forest products in Darién Province, Panamá: The importance of context." Conservation and Society: 217-234.


  • Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, New Haven, CT, USA
  • University of Panama, Urbanizaciön El Cangrejo, Panama
  • Maritime Service of Panama