Sociobiodiversity Week: Strengthening Sustainable Economies for the Benefit of People and the Environment

Leaders exchange experiences on value chains
Leaders from three production chains in the Amazon are united

September / October, 2023 – Brasilia welcomed 230 leaders of different production chains: Brazil nuts, natural rubber, and managed pirarucu – the largest scaled fish in the Amazon for Sociobiodiversity week. Pirarucu is under threat and can only be sold through sustainable management projects.

Between August 31 and September 6, riverine, Indigenous, and quilombola groups discussed a range of topics, including fair trade, access to public policies, valuing sociobiodiversity, and youth participation in the production process. They represented over 100 local extractive workers organizations and also welcomed government and business representatives.

Denyse Mello, social development project manager at the Partnership Platform for the Amazon (PPA) observed “the maturity of the discussions and the strong presence of young people.” The event was organized by the National Council of Extractive Populations (CNS), which began as a council of rubber tappers and was later expanded to include other extractive activities. It was the first meeting to bring together representatives from various traditional production chains. 

Sociobiodiversity Week was supported by USAID/Brazil and the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT. It provided an opportunity for the creation of a Rubber Collective to strengthen advocacy and organizational efforts, and welcomed private sector companies such as Natura, Vert, and Michelin. During the event, Michelin announced the creation of a new funding line to provide working capital to local rubber tapper organizations.

Professional Approach – At a time when the public and private sectors are increasingly discussing the bioeconomy, forest people have decided to adopt a more professional approach to generating income from sustainable biodiversity extractive activities. In one of the sessions, participants discussed the creation of a common protocol for businesses operating in the Amazon.

“We want to develop a relationship with the companies, but we know that they want to make profit, and we fear there might be traps,” explained Adevaldo Dias, adviser to the Carauari Rural Producers Association (ASPROC), which brings together 650 riverine families in the Médio Juruá region, in the state of Amazonas. 

The proposed protocol includes the need for plain-language contracts, where all members can truly understand them; counseling for organizations to place them on a level playing field for negotiations; and freedom of choice for the population through free, prior, and informed consultations, as provided for in Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO), ratified by Brazil.

“Companies need to support the structuring of production chains and respect the culture of our communities; that is, they must know where they are standing," adds Dias.

The discussions included the need for a separate marketing contract for the use of people’s image. In the past, some companies signed small contracts, and would inflate their presence and relevance in the local economy. People’s and communities’ images were often used without their consent.

Edson Ramalho, who works for the Kabu Institute, an Indigenous organization in southwestern Pará that sells Brazil nuts, cumaru, handicrafts, and Kayapó art products, attended the event together with Kokoró Mekrãgnotire. He was surprised by the number of organizations present in the state of Amazonas. The exchange of experiences and information with a wider understanding of the production chains is enabling Brazil nut extractive communities to map and form smaller collectives – based on common distribution routes, rather than state borders. 

Kabu sells all its Brazil nuts in Brasília and also exports a large part of its cumaru production via ports in the Southeast of Brazil. It now started to share and compare price information with the Protected Forest Association (also run by the Kayapó people), with the Xipaya people, and with the Pykore Association. Large mapping exercises were also completed during the meeting.

According to Juliana Maroccolo, a facilitator at the Executive Secretariat of the  Brazil Nut Observatory (OCA), NGO networks that support these collectives united following a number of meetings related to the Brazil nut chain. “The result is that today we have a better database than the one kept by CONAB (National Supply Company) or the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics). Through informative audios, we are providing guidance to extractive workers about marketing and best practices.” This information gathering and exchange is done through WhatsApp groups.

“The mapped regions will operate under a fair price trading system and as a basis for governance." OCA is now working on developing a Brazil nut economic/ecological information system. According to Maroccolo, “the concept of bioeconomy does not include people. We prefer to talk about sociobiodiversity because it includes people and their cultures."

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