Ouro Preto River Extractivist Reserve

Este post também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)

The Ouro Preto River Extractivist Reserve was one of the first four sustainable development units to be created in Brazil. It is located in the municipalities of Guajará-Mirim and Nova Mamoré, in Rondônia, and is part of this biggest block of protected areas in the State. From  Guajará-Mirim, one arrives at the Reserve by the rivers  Mamoré and Ouro Preto or by road, through a stretch of 40 Km which takes you the the “Pompeu Lake” on the margins of the Ouro Preto river. With an approximate area of  204,583 ha, the Ouro Preto Reserve encounters at its north the Lage Indigenous Land as well as the State Park of Guajará-Mirim; on theeast with Indigenous Land  Uru-eu-wau-wau; and on its Southern and Western border with the State’s Biological Reserve of  Ouro Preto as well the State’s Extractivist Forest of Pacaás Novos.


Text by João Valentin Wawzvniak (1994)

 FOTO 1foto 2

Preparing tapioca in a kitchen; Ouro Negro Forest home, Extractivist Reserve of the Ouro Preto River, Rondônia, 1990. Photos: Valentin Wawzyniak.

Generally speaking, the rubbertapper movement in the State was fragil even taking into account that, already in 1985, meetings were held to discuss and choose representatives for the First National Rubbertapper Assembly that took place in Brasilia. Additionally, Rubbertapper and Rubberwelder Associations werre created to demand retirement for the workers that worked during the Second World War.

The milestone towards the creation of the Ouro Preto Extractivist Reserve may be considered to be the First Rubbertapper Meeting of  Guajará Mirim, which took place in February of 1989, to discuss rubbertapper problems in the town as well as to choose delegates for the Second National Rubbertappers Assembly. Until then there was not any manner of political organization of rubbertappers in the township. The meeting witnessed the participation of 278 rubbertappers, of which 167 were from the Ouro Preto River, as well as representatives of governmental and nongovernmental organizations. In this meeting the main issues were found to be: payment of income, lack of guarantee of settlements, lack of healthcare and education services, deforestation, low price of rubber and high price os merchandise. Among the principal demands were: termination of income payment, better price for rubber, creation of a coop and healthcare and education. During the meeting a Municipal Committee was created with the responsability of broadening the organization’s actions as well as to forward the demands  (WAWZYNIAK, 1989).

A the end of 1989 the State Forest Institute proposed the creation of a protected area of 54,000 hectares. Later it was found that, based on the presented map, that it took into conssideration only a narrow stretch of land on the river margins, excluding areas of dry land as well as the nut trees and creeks occupied by the rubbertappers. With these observations, the Institute amplified the area to 204,583 hectares.

Although it was only the vague idea of an Extractive Reserve, it expressed the guarantee of permanence of settlements demanded during the First Rubbertappers Meeting of Guajará Mirim. As one of the interviewed rubbertappers put it, as well as right to possession the area is also a project of autonomy, in his words: “Each rubbertapper became the owner of his own settlement. No one has to report to anyone. In the time where we had bosses it was difficult because everything we produced had to be delivered to them.”

Social characteristics and practices of natural resource use, management and production

Life on the Extractivist Reserve is characterized by the certain degree of isolation. On the other side, it is also characterized by the presence of reciprocity, the establishment of intense coexistence and trading relations among local inhabitants which manifests itself as “camaraderie”, and by mutual assistance, mainly among neighbors and extended family members. In many locations of the Reserve still today there is the practice of joint efforts, such as the meeting of demands reffering to common use areas (opening  of trails, cleaning of holes, etc.), as well as individual and family demands (various farm related details).

Historically it is possible to observe that not always has extractivist activity been the only activity for the local economy nor has it always been the central activity for income generation. Up to the omment of the Extractivist Reserve’s creation, in 1990, there was a continuous decrease in latex extractivism as a source of survival. Extractivist had become the second main activity of income generation, giving way to agricultural activity and, to compliment income, hunt and fishing at subsistence levels as a strategy to use resources in multiple ways. These activities occured simultaneously or alternatively throughout the year, fluctuating in accordance to enviromental and/or socioeconomic variables.

Throughout the year, expressive variations occured for hunting and fishing practices, dependent on the oscillation of water levels and the availability of land and aquatic habitats. Seasonality is also present in the collection of different native fruits used in local diets, as well as it is in the availability of rubber and nuts.

Another notable characteristic as to Extractivist Reserves’ use of resources is the inability to separate some extractivist practices from other activities. There are several specificities in local resource use practices with the presence of many extractivist elements in agriculture, hunting and fishing. For example, in the conffection of work tools – hampers, gourds, harpoons, traps as well as the construction of vessels, flour houses, bridges, stairs and lastly, domiciles. This permeability of extractivist elements in other activities makes the term “agroextractivism” more adequate to define local management practices based on the use of multiple resources. It also better definies the understanding that local way of life defines itself by diffuse dependence on several forest products and not only those strictly related to economic return, such as nut and latex.

The residents of the Ouro Preto Extractivist Reserve make broad use of several species of native flora, as much in their diets as well for medicinal use, housing construction, work tools, vessels, as well as the species used for commercial ends (mostly nut and latex).

Another particularity of Extractivist Reserve use of natural resources which exhibits relations with local ways of territory appropriation is the coexistence of resources and use of communal and individual spaces. The rules of such spaces are established in the “Management Agreement”. Fishing resources are appropriated normally however there are some local rules on restricted access and customary rights for fishing locations. These restrictions mainly refer to the places in which each family keeps their longlines. In these locations, it is understood that they are to be used preferably by the resident that set them there. Outside of these situations, it is understood that each resident may fish more or less in all areas of the community, including lakes and bays open to some sites.

It is however not very common for one to fish in areas very close to another resident’s ranch, unless he or she is a relative or if placed in transit areas, such as with lines (reeds stuck to lines), with the exception of “dry lines”, or in other words, those of communities that don’t live by the Ouro Preto rivers which every now and then move to fish in lower parts of the river, usually in lakes and bays.

As to animal resources, hunting is considered to be collective. It is understood, however, that each one should hunt in their ranch’s “backyard” or on the rubber road or yet still in forests close to their location or on the other side of the river distand from where the resident lives. It is held as “normal” the oractice of hunting with a shotgun when a resident moves through river margins that cross through the ranches or rubber roads of others. On the other hand, the setting up of traps, when discovered in the same locations, are considered to be acts of invasion or, minimally, impoliteness. In other words, there are notions of communal and individual territories / hunting grounds which are reserved for each one. In situations where one travels, as in the moving through rivers, these notions do not apply as one may need to hunt and fish for immediate consumption as one travel.

In each community other communal areas are: school buildings, meeting houses, football fields, health offices. At times there are community television sets. In many communities, residents have said to have radio/phone unit for the community, although in 2009 there were none functioning.

Source: Information extracted from the Ouro Preto River Extractivist Reserve Management Plan  (ICMBIO 2014, pags. 35; 59-61):



ARAGON, Castilho. Proposta de Plano de desenvolvimento da Reserva Extrativista do Rio Ouro Preto. IBAMA, 1997.

ICMBIO. Plano de Manejo da Resex do Rio Ouro Preto. 2014.

MORET, Artur. Relatório do levantamento Sócio – Econômico da Reserva Extrativista do Rio Ouro Preto (ASAEX) – Guajará-Mirim. Universidade Federal de Rondônia, 2004.

OLMOS, F., Alfredo de Queiroz Filho, Celi Arruda Lisboa.  “As Unidades de conservação de Rondônia”.  PNUD, PLANAFLORO – Governo de Rondônia, 1999.

SACRAMENTO, M.F. “Extrativismo versus Agropecuária na Reserva Extrativista do Rio Ouro Preto – Guajará-Mirim/Nova Mamoré – RO: diferenciais de renda e perspectivas de sustentabilidade. Dissertação de Mestrado. UnB, Departamento de Engenharia Florestal, 2002.)

SANTOS, Nilson. Seringueiros da Amazônia: sobreviventes da fartura. Tese de Doutorado em Geografia Humana, USP, 2002.

VALIANTE, J.O.; SIENA, O. Produção Sustentável em Reservas Extrativistas. Universidade Federal de Rondônia – UNIR , PORTO VELHO, RO. Sociedade Brasileira de Economia, Administração e Sociologia Rural, Rio Branco – Acre, 20 a 23 de julho de 2008.

VALIANTE, José Otávio. 2008. A sustentabilidade da Produção Extrativa da RESEX do Rio Ouro Preto (RO). Dissertação de Mestrado apresentada ao Núcleo de Ciências Sociais da Faculdade de Educação da UNIR. Porto Velho.

WAWZYNIAK, J. V.  “Quem Não Quer De Novo Não Cuida”: Processos de Herança entre Seringueiros de Rondônia. Revista Campos 4:67-92, 2003.

WAWZYNIAK, J. V. 1994. Rondônia – Reserva Extrativista do Rio Ouro Preto: transformações nas formas de apropriação da natureza e estratégias de sobrevivência. Em: O destino da floresta: reservas extrativistas e desenvolvimento sustentável na Amazônia. Ricardo Arnt (edição). – Rio de Janeiro: Relumé-Dumará; Curitiba, PR: Instituto de Estudos Amazônicos e Ambientais, Fundação Konrad Adenauer.

WAWZYNIAK, J. V. Relatório do I Encontro dos Seringueiros do Município de Guajará-Mirim. Curitiba, IEA, 1989. Mimeo.