COINCAPA & ACEBA, Bolivien
About Brazil Nuts and the two cooperatives COINACAPA & ACEBA
Half of the worldwide remaining tropical rainforests are located in the Amazon Basin. The Brazilian part, which consists of nearly three-quarters of the Amazon rainforest, is the largest contiguous forested area in the world. The tropical rainforest plays an essential role for the global ecological equilibrium; it offers, for example, due to its immense dimensions, a large carbon dioxide store capacity and a reservation for a genetic diversity of flora and fauna.
The rainforest has many local functions; for many generations it has been the home of numerous indigenous ethnic groups and it is their natural source for food and income. Gathering wild Brazil nuts is a traditional and also sustainable way of using the natural abundance within the tropical rainforest.
The Brazil nut is the fruit of the Castanheira tree (Bertholletia Excelsa), which has been listed on the Red List for endangered species of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) since 1998. The largest threat to these trees is tropical deforestation. The extensive forest clearances diminish the biodiversity and destroy the unique environment for these trees to live.
In actual fact, nearly all of the worldwide consumed Brazil nuts come from wild gatherings. All scientific efforts to cultivate this plant elsewhere have so far failed. The Brazil nut tree only flourishes in the Amazon rainforest thanks to its complex interaction with other organisms.
Also the traditional Brazil nut gatherers, the Castanheiros, are increasingly under pressure from the advancing logging companies, the stock farmers as well as the soya plantations in the rainforest. The Castanheiros’ main hope of being able to continue their way of living and not be cast out, is if their regions become recognized as natural reservations for extractivism.
The IUCN considers a sustainable utilization of such gathering reservations as the most effective means to protect this plant species.
The Italian Cooperative “Chico Mendes Modena” has been involved in South America since the 1980s. Over many years they established – together with the Brazilian movement „People of the forest“ – a project with the aim of supporting the Castanheiros and preserving the Brazil nut trees. In 1990 the first gathering reservations were declared protected areas in Brasil and Bolivia and three years later, in 1993 the first Brazil nuts were exported to European overseas markets. In Italy, the Brazil nut became the first fairtrade product which achieved great success. Since then, there has been a continuous improvement in the quality of the raw materials, of the processing procedures as well as the delivery. The high demands on quality from the EU, however, still remain a significant challenge for the cooperatives.
The two Bolivian cooperatives COINACAPA and ACEBA, who harvest Brazil nuts for this project, are located in the Western part of the Amazon tropical rain forest. The trade with Brazil nuts has meant more than 1000 families can continue with a sustainable utilisation of the tropical rainforest in a traditional way. These families make their living out of the fairtrade project of exporting Brazil nuts. Their harvesting area has been declared a protected area thus saving an area of approximately 60‘000 square kilometers (about the size of Switzerland) from deforestation and depletion.
Further positive results from this project are: access to healthcare programs, doctors and free access to hospitals.
As a result, the number of cases of malaria as well as tuberculosis has dropped considerably and the epidemic spreading of the Dengue fever is now under control.
COINACAPA stands for “Cooperative Integral Agroextractivista Campesinos de Pando”. It was founded in 2001 and employs approximately 350 families. COINACAPA was the first Cooperative in the Bolivian Departamento Pando, who spoke up for the rights of Brazil nuts harvesters.
ACEBA stands for Asociación de Comunidades Extractivistas del Bosque Amazónico” . This Cooperative is also active in the Departamento Pando with its headquarter in the city of Cobija. Approximately 80 families from 4 extractivist communities from the Amazon region are united under this name.