Though it may seem counterintuitive, the world’s top exporter of Brazil nuts is not the product’s namesake but rather neighboring Bolivia. Grown in the depths of the Amazon, the Brazil nut presents distinct environmental and agricultural challenges, as well as opportunities.
The tree, which can take 12 to 15 years to produce its fruit, depends on natural pollinators and heavy rainfall to flourish. Because the nuts are collected seasonally in primary forests, the Brazil nut market is vulnerable to changing climate patterns and humandriven deforestation. No industrial-scale Brazil nut plantations exist, despite growing export demand for this “superfood” in the US, Europe, and Australia. As many indigenous Amazonian communities depend on the Brazil nut harvest for their livelihoods, they have a strong incentive to preserve the forest environment and keep others from encroaching for logging or mining.
The Fairtrade Access Fund (FAF), which is managed by CSAF member Incofin, has provided financing and advisory services to four Brazil nut enterprises since 2013. Collectively, these businesses work with 485 Brazil nut collectors and employ 1,240 in their processing facilities. With financing from FAF, these enterprises have more than tripled their sales over the past four years.
Additionally, FAF assisted the businesses in developing capacity to manage land and forest resources in a sustainable manner. While the natural process of Brazil nut harvesting is free of pesticides, enterprises have improved their forestry protection practices and obtained Fairtrade and other certifications indicating commitment to environmental conservation. In order to comply with local labor and environmental regulations, borrowers are required to obtain proper licensing and permits for forest intervention work. By maintaining sustainable practices, the businesses are able to earn an average of $391K per year in Fairtrade premiums, which are used to fund community development projects, such as constructing new roads or worker housing.