Nuts that save forests

IUCN supports nut farmers in Brazil to improve their livelihoods and sustain their forests

Acre State, Brazil, June 30th, 2008 – IUCN, together with the State of Acre’s Central Cooperative, the Government of the State of Acre, the Brazilian Federal Government, SEBRAE, EMBRAPA and WWF Brazil, will sign a deal worth US$ 9.3 million over the next three years. The money will support Acre’s Central Cooperative to continue to buy forest nuts directly from the local farmers at fair market prices. IUCN’s involvement in the agreement not only signals its growing activity in Brazil, but also highlights a landmark moment for IUCN’s “Livelihoods and Landscapes” Initiative in Acre. Taking place bang in the middle of the Brazilian nut crop season, today’s signing will allow for work to begin immediately.

Acre State is one of the Amazon’s frontier regions and it is in these forests that Chico Mendes and the rubber tappers staved off the forest clearing cattle ranchers with the pioneering idea of ‘extractive reserves’, a system that benefits both local farmers and their forests. Now that the market price for rubber has dropped, the sale of forest nuts has become even more important and plays a key role in generating income for local farmers in Acre.

In the past, Acre’s farmers struggled to secure a fair price for their nut harvest from Peruvian and Bolivian commercial companies and their middlemen who were realizing massive profit margins without any social or environmental benefit to the farmers who collected the nuts. So, the local farmers organized themselves into cooperatives, coordinated by the Central Cooperative, which cut out the middlemen and bought from the farmers directly. During the past six years, the 1,500 local farmers involved have seen the price they are paid for their nuts increase by 300%. Nut farming has become more lucrative than agriculture and livestock in this area, saving thousands of hectares of forest from being cleared.

The financial support that this new agreement offers creates floating capital which will allow the Central Cooperative to increase the number of local nut farmers it can buy nuts from at a fair market price. It will also help strengthen the administrative capacity of the Central Cooperative and help improve the quality control of the nuts and their transportation infrastructure.

Today’s nut farmers in Acre continue to demonstrate what Chico Mendez and the rubber tappers of Acre proved years ago - that it is the people who live off the forests who are the key to sustaining them.

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