This paper explores the theoretical debates on extraction and development in Amazonia, and the emergence of extractive reserves (ERs) as a tropical development alternative. It reviews the role of women in Amazonian rural economies and then analyzes the (often invisible) tasks of women within the reserves through an analysis of the gender division of labour in the collecting and processing of non-timber forest products and agriculture. It then considers how lack of attention to rural women’s labour obligations played out in a development project, Projeto Castanha, that began as an urban factory, but was later recast as a neoliberal decentralized processing and outsourcing programme. The project failed to appreciate the demands on, and the opportunity costs, of women’s time and thus had very limited success as women withdrew their labour. The paper argues that there may be many more options for supporting extractive economies (and the women who work in them) in more peri-urban and village projects even though extractive reserves are valuable ecologically and socially in the regional economy.