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FILM | Coconuts to Cars - Brazil


The Amazon Basin is perhaps the largest and best known region of tropical rainforest in the world, spreading across Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru and Bolivia. The forest is a place of global importance and home to a wide variety of natural resources.

Many people living in the Amazon Basin are poor. They rely on the forest for alternatives to timber. Non-timber Forest Products (NTFPs) such as nuts, fruits, oils and resins provide income but have traditionally been harvested using unsustainable methods. The ability to market these Amazonian products successfully, taking into account consumer preferences for sustainable production, can make a big difference in improving the livelihoods of rural communities.

Bolsa Amazonia is a regional programme for the Amazon Basin countries, dedicated to sustainable development of the region's communities and conservation of the natural resources. Created in 1998 in partnership with BIOTRADE, it is an initiative of the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and POEMA, the Brazilian programme on poverty and environment in the Amazon Basin.

The Bolsa Amazonia Projects
The objective of the Bolsa Amazonia programme is to promote sustainable use of Amazonian natural resources, while reducing poverty among indigenous people. Products are promoted that give producers and processors improved incomes, and consumers get a product that is guaranteed environmentally friendly.

The programme is currently active in Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia and Bolivia and is expanding to Peru and Venezuela. Bolsa Amazonia has established close links with communities, the private sector and governments through partnerships that foster community development and ecological conservation in the region.
The programme works with forest communities in production right through to the marketing of products. This includes improved methods of cultivation and production, small-scale processing, capacity building, training, provision of technical and marketing information, and the identification of suitable markets.

Training is provided in:

• Marketing, including business planning, costing, packaging and forecasting
• Processing fish, banana and dairy products, including hygiene and safety
• Organisation and management, including co-operatives, administration and accounting
• Sustainable resource use - sustainable agriculture, subsistence cropping, seed production, and cultivation and collection of forest products.

Marketing Products
The Bolsa Amazonia programme builds linkages between small-scale producers and buyers of Amazonian products that would otherwise be very difficult. Without these linkages, processors have nowhere to market their products, consumers are unaware of goods that are available and product harvesting remains unsustainable. Amazonian products are marketed under the fair trade, organic and natural banners to meet consumer demand. To reach these markets, strict production and processing guidelines are followed and commercial promotion is necessary. Bolsa Amazonia organises marketing training for processors and helps to advertise and promote the products.

A marketing information system database known as SIMBA has been developed to represent producers, processors and national and international businesses interested in Amazon products. The 'supply and demand' database informs buyers about who is producing what, and where, and is a starting point for companies who are interested in doing business. Approximately 350 products, 100 buyers and 100 producers are registered on the SIMBA database.
Many different products are registered on the database, divided into categories:

• raw materials, including fruits and seeds
• handicrafts
• paper
• cosmetics
• oils
• natural medicines
• coconut fibre products
• processed foods, including fruit pulps, fruit juice, flour and honey.

Star Products:
Pasteurised açaí pulp
Star products are guaranteed by Bolsa Amazonia to have the capacity to meet demands in accordance with the principles of ecological and sustainable development. They are produced to the standards of hygiene required by the market. They are promoted at national and international fairs and all profits from sales have been brought back to the producers' associations.

The açaí palm (Euterpe oleracea) is found throughout the Amazon Region and grows naturally in flooded areas of the várzea forests and igapós, or in higher terrain when cultivated. It occurs throughout the entire Brazilian Amazon, with major production taking place in the State of Pará where concentrations of species are greatest.

The açaí palm grows in native plantations and was under threat due to the extent of palm-heart consumption (when the whole tree is cut to collect its heart). The palm can be used in a sustainable way through the management of the açaizais or açaí ecosystem. Traditionally açaí was collected and sold as fresh fruit in local markets, but this brought low economic returns. The sale of fruit pulp in the form of a naturally nutritious drink has made it a more profitable enterprise.

Seventeen Brazilian communities formed a producers association to organise their production and became the owners of a modern processing plant where the Açaí Poema da Amazonia beverage is produced. The açaí beverage provides energy, around 182.4 cal/100g. It also has high levels of calcium and phosphorus, which makes açaí extremely nutritious.

Banana flour
Farinha de Banana is banana flour made up of dehydrated green bananas. It is ground for preparing porridge, milkshakes, cakes, pancakes, cookies, etc. for lunches in schools, hospitals, restaurants or snack bars.
The dehydration process used to make banana flour involves: washing fruit; immersing it in a heated tank; removing skins; slicing bananas; drying them on trays; grinding into powder, weighing and packaging.
Banana flour is sustainably produced using agro-forestry systems that combine crops in the same areas, enabling the recovery of degraded land through reforestation and soil protection.
The commercialisation of Banana Flour Poema da Amazônia contributes to the improvement of the livelihoods of rural communities. More than 16 communities are involved in the cultivation and processing of the fruit in six different food-processing plants. The production of banana flour reduces post-harvesting losses of fresh bananas and is made into a value-added product with better returns for producers.

Coconut fibre products
Traditionally, coconut husks were burned or discarded. Their reuse has helped to show how the sustainable use of forest resources can preserve the Amazon while providing numerous sources of income. Coconut fibre and latex (produced from rubber trees) products are biodegradable and can be recycled. In Brazil, rubber tappers have been recognised for their struggle to preserve the Amazon by ensuring that rubber extraction is a sustainable activity.
Coconut fibre and latex pots are both recyclable and biodegradable. Substituting xaxim (an orchid, specifically the giant samambaia) for coconut fibre contributes towards the preservation of the giant samambaia, an endangered plant species.

The pots are aerated to allow the plant to grow, with high water retention. They contain nutrients for the roots of the plant and can be successfully replanted without removing the plant from the pot.

The extraction and processing of the coconut fibre involves more than 5,000 families from the Island of Marajo and north-eastern Pará. Organised within producer associations and seven agro-industries, they sell the products directly to Poematec Industry, a partnership between POEMA and the motor company, DaimlerChrysler. The commercialisation of gardening products provides a source of income for communities and an incentive to use recyclable and alternative materials. The demand for latex as a raw material for various industrial applications has given a new impetus to the production of latex.

The consumption of paper is one of the causes of global deforestation. The Amazon Paper project illustrates the possibility of finding non-wood alternatives while promoting uses for non-timber forest products such as fibres, particularly as a means of substituting synthetic products.
Amazon Paper brings together ancestral oriental art and traditional Amazonian knowledge to produce a hand-made paper that is entirely made from natural resources - fibres, dyes, fragrances, leaves and flowers. The main fibre from which the pulp is extracted is curauá. It is mixed with other materials to obtain a wide array of papers in a range of colours, textures, and thicknesses.

The cultivation of the curauá (Ananas erectifolius) plant, and the extraction and paper-making processes involve many communities as common production units. Paper production, from cultivation to the final product, is performed in a sustainable manner, and income generated from the sale of the fibre and other food crops benefits local families to improve their income and quality of life.

Biodiversity and Poverty Reduction
Rural communities are the beneficiaries of the Bolsa Amazonia programme; traditional forest dwellers, subsistence farmers, and 'riberinhos' (people living on the riverbanks). Amazon basin countries are home to the poorest and most vulnerable fringes of the population. Often they lack the most basic services such as healthcare, water, sanitation and education. These communities live in isolated family units in remote locations, relying on agro-extraction and fishing for survival.

The foundation of Bolsa Amazonia is based on understanding the links between biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction. Conservation of tropical forest is encouraged through a combination of agro-forestry systems, natural resource management and the development of sustainable productive chains. Forest people's livelihoods have improved through the development of economic activities that generate income by adding value to products. Local employment has increased, producers are being integrated into larger production chains and trade is increasingly on an equitable basis.
The project contributes to improved food security as agro-forestry encourages crop diversification. Some crops are used for home consumption, some are processed and others are sold. Income generated through these means has been re-invested in local housing, electrical appliances and other amenities.

Lessons Learned
Uniting local knowledge of the forest, simple management techniques and appropriate technologies to regenerate degraded areas, further destruction of forest is avoided. Making information available and accessible is also crucial. The SIMBA database brings together producers, processors and buyers so they can interact within a virtual marketplace.
The creation of close working partnerships among public institutions, non-governmental organisations and private enterprises has been fundamental to the success of the Bolsa Amazonia programme. It is effective in influencing public policies, presenting new models for credit and investment programmes and providing opportunities for foreign direct investment in sustainable development initiatives.

Bolsa Amazonia believes in lobbying and advocacy efforts, to use trade as a means of promoting sustainable development. Trade in biological resources and other environmental services and products has brought awareness to major economic players who are becoming more socially and environmentally responsible.

For further information, please contact:
Dr. Maria de Nazaré Imbiriba
General Secretary of the Bolsa Amazonia
Casa do POEMA
Universidade Federal do Pará
CEP 66075-900
Belém, Pará Brazil
Tel. +55 91 211 1686/91 259 3423
Fax +55 91 259 3423


Federal University of Pará - Professional Sector, House of POEMA
Caixa Postal 8606
Belém, Pará
Brazil 66075-900
Tel. +55 91 259 3423/211 1686
Fax +55 91 259 3423/211 1687
Email: Websites

The FAO's Non-Wood Forest Products (NWFP) website has information on every aspect of NWFP, from activities, publications (some listed below), country information and links to other sites of interest.

Further Reading

Income generation from non-wood forest products in upland conservation
US$11, FAO Conservation Guides, ISBN: 9251038465

Marketing information systems for non-timber forest products
US$14, FAO (2000), Part of Community Forestry Field Manual Series

Marketing information systems for non-timber forest products Part of Community Forestry Field Manual Series 6
US$14, FAO, 2000
This book can be purchased from FAO or EarthPrint
Marketing in forestry and agroforestry by rural people
Free FAO Job#: W6667, 1996

I UCN - World Conservation Union Books
Economic Value of Non-Timber Forest Products in Southeast Asia Second edition, Jenne H. de Beer and Melanie J. McDermott
ISBN 90 75909 01 2, 1996

Non-timber Forest Products: Value, use and management issues in Africa, including examples from Latin America,
Edited by S. A. Crafter, J. Awimbo and A. J. Broekhoven
ISBN 2 8317 0317 4, 1997
Based on a pan-African workshop that was held in Naro Moru, Kenya, on 8-13 May 1994, to analyse the viability of extraction of NTFPs in Africa and improve knowledge and understanding of the role and potential of NTFPs in forest conservation. It gives a synthesis of workshop discussions, and also includes country overviews of NTFP use from 15 countries.

Non-Timber Forest Products from the Tropical Forests of Africa: A bibliography, Compiled by Harry van der Linde and Esther van Adrichem, ISBN 90 75909 03 9, 1997
Provides an overview of available literature on non-timber forest products in the tropical forests of Africa which include the tropical lowland forests, swamp forests, montane forests and mangroves of West, Central and East Africa and Madagascar.

FAO Sales
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Website: IUCN

TVE/ITDG gratefully acknowledge support for the HANDS ON programmes from the UK's Department for International Development (DFID), the European Commission (EC), the UN Foundation and UNDP/The Equator Initiative in collaboration with the Government of Canada, IDRC, IUCN, BrasilConnects and the Nature Conservancy.


2003 Development Planning Unit | Sikandar Hasan | Anna Soave | Khanh Tran-Thanh || Tina Simon