Production of Palm Oil “Dendê” in an Agroforestry System: Innovation and Sustainability


USAID partners with Natura, one of the Brazil’s largest cosmetics companies, to study and experimentally implement agroforestry systems which promote income diversification, environmental services and resilience to climate change.  The partnership focuses on the production of sustainable palm oil in degraded Amazonian lands. Dendê, known worldwide as palm oil, is a key ingredient in the manufacture of soaps and toiletries. The project also aims to increase socioeconomic benefits of this value chain, promote the valorization of Amazon biodiversity and enhance the knowledge of small local farmers. .

Since 2008, Natura has been studying  palm oil agroforestry systems (known as SAF Dendê) in collaboration with the Tomé-Açú Agricultural Cooperative (CAMTA), the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). In addition to  palm oil (Elaeis guineensis), SAF Dendê produces cocoa (Theobroma cacao), açaí (Euterpe oleracea), bacaba (Oenocarpus sp), and andiroba (Carapa guianensis), among others. Income diversification is one of the main benefits of the agroforestry system, contributing to economic sustainability.

SAF Dendê is a technological showcase that receives hundreds of visitors  yearly, making it the world's leading sustainable palm oil research and reference site. SAF Dende offers a win-win relationship to produce a commodity that is usually linked to socio-environmental conflicts.

In 2018, SAF Dendê celebrated ten years of research. A main result was to promote a  paradigm shift in the production of palm oil from monoculture to agroforestry systems This pioneering experiment tested 17 species over the time and has shown superior palm oil yields compared to conventional monoculture production(). In addition, Natura is also celebrating the expansion strategy of this diverse production model  and the construction of a business model for sustainable palm oil production to allow scaling these promising results up.


Photo: Natura