Indigenous Brazilians source personal care ingredients for income and land preservation

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

Indigenous Brazilians source personal care ingredients for income and land preservation

Related tags Amazon river Seed

Natura cosmetics is an early client of Sentinels of the Forest, a program meant to help tribal peoples protect the forest and harvest Brazil nuts for sale and processing. 

The program, launched in 2014 by Paulo Cesar Nunes established a Brazil nut cooperative in Jurnena, a town close to where the Cinta Larga, Cayabi, Apiaka and Munduruku peoples live, explains Jenny Barchfield in her Associated Press item about the Sentinels of the Forest program.

The basic idea is for indigenous people to earn a livelihood that sidesteps industries that would clear cut the forest. “The creation story of the Cinta Larga people holds that they were born out of the fruit of the Brazil nut tree,” ​writes Barchfield.

“Now they are betting that the mighty tree could be the key to their very future in the Amazon rain forest.”

Business arrangement

The Cinta Larga people, close to 1,700 in number, are already seeing benefits and eager to be involved with something that will help them protect 2m acres of ancestral land.

The program has increased the tribes’ income by 50%, Daeit Akata Kaban, leader of the Cinta Larga tells Barchfield. “It has completely changed our lives,” ​Kaban says.

In the first year Sentinels of the Forest harvested 130 tons of nuts, reports Brachfield. And, there’s room to grow “the warehouses have capacity to stock 1,000 tons – and with 875,000 hectares between the two [participating] indigenous reservations, there are plenty more nuts to be collected,” ​she observes.

The initial $1.25m funding for the program came from Fundo Amazon, a fund overseen by the Brazilian national development bank and backed by international donors, according to Barchfield. 

Natural beauty

Gathering the Brazil nuts for processing into ingredients is low tech. When the shells fall from the trees during the rainy season, harvesters pick them up off the forest floor, as Barchfield explains.

Brazil nut trees do not dominate the forest; rather they are spotted throughout, so harvesters cover a lot of ground. To keep the shells—which are roughly the size of a mini-basketball—dry, there are 18 Sentinels of the Forest storage sites in the forest.

“The project has also invested in industrial drying machines that allow them not only to sell the nuts whole but also to extract the oil, which is used for cooking and also as an ingredient in shampoos, face creams and lotions,” ​writes Barchfield.

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