Rubber Production Initiative Generates Income in the Amazon

Eleven people are seated at a table covered with a dark tablecloth. A man in a red shirt is standing and speaking into a microphone - Photo: CNS
Latex Extraction Project supported by USAID and the PPA will launch

March, 2023 – Families living in traditional communities in the state of Amazonas are participating in the “Together for Amazon Rubber'' initiative. They recently resumed latex extraction, selling more than 60 tons of rubber in the 2022 harvest. Approximately 250 families directly participated in production activities that generated about R$700,000 in revenue.

The project arose from a partnership between the Michelin Foundation and the WWF Network. USAID/Brazil and the Partnership Platform for the Amazon (PPA) will join as strategic partners this year. The National Council of Extractive Populations (CNS) and the Chico Mendes Memorial also participate in the initiative. Several public institutions are involved in the process, supporting logistical operations in the communities, fiscal adaptation to enable access to funds, and the acquisition of rubber-tapping tools. 

The results were presented during the first comprehensive state meeting on rubber extraction, held in Manaus March 7-9. During the event, participants assessed the work developed during the first year of implementation, which aimed at strengthening the native rubber chain in the Amazon and planned activities for the next harvest.

“Many extractive producers do not realize how important what they are doing is to keep the forest standing. By today’s standards and resuming this work, rubber has become the most profitable product in the region. Some rubber tappers are making two minimum wages per month,” says Francisco Leandro do Nascimento Araújo, President of the Association of Agroextractive Producers of Canutama (ASPAC). 

“With the first advance payment they received, some rubber tappers have purchased a sterndrive, a new canoe, an aluminum dinghy, and electronic devices they did not have at home, such as a TV and antennas. This is very good for their self-esteem—and for mine, too! Until I was 15, I lived on a rubber plantation. My father, who is now 70 years old, was a rubber tapper himself,” he adds.

ASPAC is one of the seven associations that engaged in rubber production in last year's harvest. The work developed in several municipalities in the state of Amazonas, namely: Pauini, Canutama, Eirunepé, Manicoré, and Itacoatiara. Extractive workers from other municipalities interested in joining the initiative were also invited to the event, including Apuí, Boca do Acre, Santarém, and Tefé. 

“Together, these institutions are working in Amazonas with a focus on reactivating the rubber production chain in the state. Our objective is to develop a fair, responsible, and inclusive commercial relationship, precisely because we believe in the potential of extractive production to help keep the forest standing and to promote traditional peoples value  and their cultures,” explains Adevaldo Dias da Costa, President of the Chico Mendes Memorial, the organization responsible for implementing the project in the area.

Support — With a view to supporting those seven associations, the initiative provided a matching contribution (as a percentage) per kilogram of rubber produced (overall exceeding R$100,000), in addition to legal, accounting, logistical, and procurement support.

“Environmentally responsible, socially balanced, and financially viable initiatives such as this one collaborate and guide us toward a future that is more and more sustainable every day,” says Bruna Mesquita, Michelin's Head of Sustainable Development.

Ricardo Mello, Conservation Manager at WWF-Brazil, highlights the project's contributions. “The initiative generated income for many families in the region and made a positive contribution to recognizing the value of the forest as one of the pillars of a new Amazon economy based on the use and preservation of sociobiodiversity. We hope this event will be a landmark in the state toward the consolidation of the rubber chain."

The Power of Extractive Production—Latex extraction is done in the second half of the year, during the dry season. Rubber production involves managing native rubber trees in the Amazon. The handling and production process involves activities with low environmental impact and no degradation. 

As extractive activities are interspersed throughout the year, producers usually work with other production chains, such as Brazil nuts and fisheries, among others.

The rubber chain faces several challenges, including the need for quality improvement techniques, the long distances to the markets, the fragmentation and delay in receiving support and funding, and the need to help local producers follow fiscal requirements. In order to overcome these obstacles and unlock the potential of this chain, new production and financial arrangements involving extractive organizations, companies, and governments are already being established.

A  “rubber tappers manifesto” was release at the end of the event. They demanded, among other points, the creation of a policy on payment for environmental services (more details here, in Portuguese). 

Visit the PPA website for additional information.