COOPAVAM: Untapping the green power of Brazil nuts

Current status
Implementation

Partnerships for Forests is supporting the sustainable collection and commercialisation of Brazil nuts to protect forests and improve livelihoods in the Amazon.

Background

In 2017, the state of Mato Grosso accounted for 20% of all deforestation in the Amazon. At 89%, the large majority of this was deforested illegally. Such severe environmental losses sharply affect local communities where agrarian and social conflicts have become a common reality.

A largely recognised strategy to prevent deforestation involves establishing protected areas, including indigenous lands. However, if populations located inside these areas are not able to find economic alternatives to sustain adequate livelihoods, there are few incentives to protect the standing forest.

About COOPAVAM

Over the past decade, the Brazil nut processing cooperative COOPAVAM has emerged as an incredibly effective tackler of forest degradation, providing viable sources of income from the preserved forest.

Its successful business model brings together indigenous communities and agrarian settlers to collect Brazil nuts in a region with one of Brazil’s highest deforestation rates – the northwest of Mato Grosso.

Although this region is recognised as a Brazilian deforestation hotspot – driven mainly by illegal logging, cattle and soy expansion – it holds the last preserved forest boundary in the state, along with many indigenous communities, who face daily challenges in preventing the spread of new deforestation activities.

With support, COOPAVAM can expand its model approach of doing deforestation-free business in the Brazilian Amazon.

The project

COOPAVAM is the first forest partnership in Partnerships for Forest’s (P4F) Latin America portfolio and P4F is supporting the cooperative to take an integrated approach: to improve the sales and marketing strategies whilst also strengthening forest protection through indigenous territorial management plans.

Sustainable commercialisation

Currently, the cooperative has offtake agreements in place to sell Brazil nuts oil to Natura, one of the largest cosmetics companies in the world and owner of brands such as The Body Shop. COOPAVAM also supplies local and regional markets with a portfolio of organic Brazil nut products. One of these, in natura, is a powerful ‘superfood’, rich in selenium (the ‘longevity nutrient’). Inside COOPAVAM’s industrial plant, Brazil nuts are also processed into other products – like pure oil – which can be used for culinary purposes.

The potential for expansion is high, with steady consumption growth in both domestic and international markets. P4F support is contributing to developing and operating a sales and marketing strategy, that includes capacity building, to reach and maintain contracts with national and international actors.

With this support, COOPAVAM can take on new clients and markets to spread the benefits – and the delights – of the Brazilian nuts.

 

“With the support of Partnerships for Forests, we aim to increase the production and reach new markets, which will ultimately support a larger area of forest and a higher number of families that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to do alone”

– Paulo César Nunes, member of the Rural Development Association from the municipality of Juruena, home of COOPAVAM.

 

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Forest protection

In this partnership, the focus will be on the indigenous communities involved with the collection of nuts; the two indigenous lands currently operating with COOPAVAM account for approximately 95% of the supply of its nuts. Before their partnership with the cooperative, this supply was almost entirely bought by middlemen and the price paid for the nuts was much lower than the one currently agreed with COOPAVAM.

With P4F support, forest protection will be enhanced through developing Environmental and Territorial Management Plans for the Indigenous Lands (PGTA, in Portuguese).

A PGTA involves activities such as ethno-zoning, ethno-mapping, monitoring and surveillance mechanisms and the mapping of relevant economic activities for each community, arranging every indigenous association in each of the lands into a socially agreed structure. There will be a different PGTA for each of the lands that are already involved in the supply chain of COOPAVAM and for two new indigenous territories with the aim of expanding the production. The expected revenue increase from Brazil nut sales will be used to improve PGTA monitoring and surveillance mechanisms.

With a co-designed and co-owned land management plan, the communities who depend on the Brazil nuts for their livelihoods will have better resources to be able to protect the forest they own and live in.

The project is expected to support around 4000 local people, bring 1.4 million hectares of land into sustainable use and catalyse £2,888,000 of private investment by 2020.

Lead Organisation: COOPAVAM

Implementing Organisations: COOPAVAM

Public: COOPAVAM has local support from public sector through Juruena Town Hall, which facilitates the authorisations and issuing of legal documents with the state authority.

Header image: Marco Simola/CIFOR