Can you name a product you use on a regular basis that originated in a tropical rainforest?
Chocolate, vanillas, bananas, cashews, Brazil nuts, bamboo, avocado and latex are just a few rainforest products you may use routinely. As it turns out, some of these products are part of the plan to safeguard rainforests for all time.
Conservation in Action:
Cutting tropical rainforests for wood, palm oil plantations and cattle grazing land may be highly profitable to some people in the short term. But preserving original forests and harvesting Brazil nuts and other rainforest products can provide a healthier, long-term benefit for many people living in the forests.
The reason for this is simple: Managed sustainable harvesting of natural products keeps the rainforest ecosystem intact, while providing substantial income for families. For example, the Fairtrade-certified* Organization of Organic Brazil Nut Gatherers of Peru (translated acronym: RONAP) is a cooperative group that now benefits about 1,200 native Peruvians.
Case Study: The Brazil Nut
Brazil nuts have served as a vital food for the indigenous (native) people of the South America for thousands of years. For example, Surinam’s Trio people, use the nuts in bread and cereal and they use oil from the Brazil nut as lamp fuel and to make soap. They even use the empty Brazil nut seedpods as cups for collecting latex from trees. Brazil nuts are nutritious with high levels of selenium and beneficial amino acids.
Brazil nuts are best grown in natural rainforest settings as opposed to plantations because the trees depend on large rodents called agoutis to disperse their seeds across the land. The trees also rely on Euglossine orchid bees for pollination. Both of these important tree-companions thrive only in primary, undisturbed rainforest.
*The Fairtrade Foundation is a UK-based charitable organization that promotes sustainable development in a way that provides people with “a decent and dignified livelihood and develop their full potential.”