The Tropenbos-Colombia programme research site in the Araracuara region in the Colombian Amazon was formerly used as a penal colony. From 1938-1971 attempts were made to assess the natural richness of the forest in this region. The results of a study on the management practices in that era, have been published in this book.
On the basis of documents and oral testimonies gathered in the Araracuara region and other parts of the country, this study describes the historical processes that led to the establishment of the penal colony and settlement in the Colombian Amazon.
Natural resources were used for farming, cattle raising and the gathering of forest products like wood, rubber, pelts, bushmeat and fish. Agricultural activities focused on the production of subsistence crops. The methods introduced by the penal colony contrasted sharply with indigenous slash-and-burn technology which, according to this study, contributed to the failure of the colony in terms of agricultural production and supply throughout most of its history.
This case study shows that the management of the Amazonian ecosystem is very delicate. It is essential that planners and government authorities consider past experiences and give serious consideration to ecological, economic and socio-political aspects in developing agricultural projects in the Amazon.