Guardian Communities Create Learning Opportunities In The Amazon

USAID and PPA teams meet with partners - Photos: PPA
USAID and PPA Teams Visit Chocolate and Rubber Value Chain Initiatives

January, 2024 – Deep in the Amazon forest community voices were integrated, learning was encouraged and guardian communities produced trusting relationships with steadfast allies. That was the spirit of the visit made by USAID and the Partnership Platform for the Amazon (PPA) to initiatives developed in the state of Amazonas.

In addition to understanding the positive impact businesses being supported in the Amazon, the group gave voice to rubber tappers, extractivists, local producers, and representatives of traditional communities. 

The teams visited the Na Floresta factory (producer of Na'kau chocolate), where they examined the production line and discussed the native cocoa and chocolate value chain. Wild Amazon cocoa producer Maria Lúcia de Araújo França, known as "Dona" Lúcia, hosted the group in the Verdum Community, in the municipality of Manicoré, to observe the onset of the value chain. She provides raw material to Na'kau and was able to increase her family's income, which contributes to the conservation of the Amazon and its biodiversity.

“Cocoa is a very important source of income for the community, especially for women, who work more with the product. When we started, our life improved. Working with Na´kau helped us add value to our products, including organic lines. We are learning and improving our practices,” says “Dona” Lúcia.

They also met with Impact Hub Manaus, responsible for implementing Impact Lab – a program dedicated to strengthening and providing mentoring to sustainable businesses located in Legal Amazon supported by USAID, PPA, Alliance Bioversity & CIAT, and private sector partners.

Extractivism – Iniciativa da Revitalização da Cadeia da Borracha partners created, an opportunity to exchange experiences with the team and  producers from communities around Lake Atininga, in Manicoré.

They surveyed the various stages of rubber production – from latex extraction – to local chain structures, which value standing forests and were reactivated in Southern Amazonas. Latex is a milky substance extracted through incisions made in the rubber tree trunk. The manipulation and production process involves activities with low environmental impact.

The extractivism revitalization project aims to revitalize the rubber production value chain and promote socioenvironmental development, preserving nature and strengthening Indigenous and traditional communities, providing fair compensation for rubber tappers. It is carried out in partnership with Michelin, WWF, Conselho Nacional das Populações Extrativistas (CNS), and Chico Mendes Memorial, the PPA and Alliance Biodiversity and CIAT.

“We listen closely to rubber tappers and communities, always with the perspective of ensuring that these people have the choice for a profitable sustainable productive chain, economically speaking, but one that allows them to remain in their territories, which are considered the most sacred thing they have. Respecting ways of life and culture. We want these families to have opportunities to choose,” explains Adevaldo Dias, president of the Chico Mendes Memorial.

The project benefits from the important contribution of the Aliança para o Desenvolvimento Sustentável do Sul (ADASSA), in mobilizing local actors, and the Coletivo Jovens Comunicadores do Sul do Amazonas (JOCSAM).

“The work we do is all about people. It's about making change, understanding their lives, but knowing that they are the main part of the equation when we talk about biodiversity, conservation, and facing climate change. It's amazing to see something like rubber tappers who are changing the way they can economize on our ecosystem sustainably, in a way that benefits us all”, says Director Mark Carrato, USAID/Brazil.

For Bruna Mesquita, regional sustainability manager at Michelin, building trust with communities is an important aspect of the relationship. “The project aims to revitalize the chain. We will build a relationship of trust, with a lot of listening and learning from the rubber tappers.”

Strengthening Value Chains – During the visit, Carrato met with the Governor of Amazonas, Wilson Lima, and with the Secretary of the Environment, Eduardo Taveira. They discussed current plans to stimulate sustainable value chains, the bioeconomy, and the role of companies that are part of the Manaus Free Trade Zone.

They also discussed topics such as economic and social development based on environmental conservation and income generation for forest peoples. “Partnership with local governments is very important for USAID. It was great to personally discuss our strategy for biodiversity conservation and cooperation,” said USAID/Brazil’s director.

The contributions of the private sector were acknowledged as a key partner in development, along with PPA’s role as a convener that supports companies committed to strengthening impact businesses and territorial development.

Learn more about PPA's work