Strengthening value chains to keep the forest standing

The idea behind strengthening value chains is to transform forest and non-forest products into profitable business models in order to provide income to local communities that depend on these resources for their livelihoods, while keeping the forest standing. “If we are not capable of creating a dynamic economy based on socio biodiversity assets, cultural assets, etc., we are not going to be able to hold back the pressure that the Amazon stills suffers”, stresses Valmir Ortega, executive-director of Conexus, a recently established company that creates investment funds to leverage value chains that may return more profits than deforestation to extractivists, fishermen, nut collectors and Amazonian cooperatives. Presenting his business model at ICMBio’s Protected Areas seminar, Ortega advocated the creation of funds that can lend capital to leverage the business of cooperatives and associations involved in these chains. “Philanthropy alone does not sustain a business. What happens when the Project ends? Frustration for the communities and disenchantment.”

Manuel Cunha, a former rubber tapper and now a manager at the Extractivism Reserve (Resex) of Médio Juruá, in the state of Amazonas, echoed this sentiment. Like many families in dire straits, “I would probably cut the last pequi tree in my reserve, and would kill the last manatee in the lake, if this is what it takes to save my family”, he said, and emphasized. “However, I need to maintain the pequi tree because I sell its oil and earn more money than I would get from timber. I need to keep manatees in the lake because they brings in tourists.” Mr. Cunha was articulating many community members concerns that conservation efforts too often fail to recognize the need to build in the economic value of these resources, and provide viable futures for the families that live there, depend on the resources, and that when the resources have greater economic value, communities are not faced with such a drastic choice between conservation and their own well-being.

Reinforcing that same message, strengthening sustainable value chains is a critical component of USAID’s Partnership for the Conservation of Amazon Biodiversity (PCAB) that provide training, tools, processes, and links to commercialization and markets, all with the aim of helping communities to become self sustainable and the value chains they depend upon to be both successful and sustainable.

Dalton Tupari, president of the Indigenous Association of the Doá Txato, has participated in many courses from the Brazil Education Institute (IEB), a partner of the PCAB, and Pacto das Águas, and wants to see the Brazilian nut harvest grow in his community, as it now has over 350 indigenous people. “With the project, the community added infrastructure, aggregated value, and increased its participation. What is important now is to have continuity, to not let the work stop”.


“When we talk about Amazonian products, we have seasonal ones, with very limited organization, very challenging logistics, and difficulties in access to basic services such as energy”, explains João da Mata, coordinator for the Department of Sustainable Use at Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity (ICMBio), who is in charge of developing value chains.

Direct access to markets, obtaining capital and selling the product at a fair price are some of the challenges expressed by participants of the Annual Meeting of Partners of the US Forest Service, less than a week after the seminar. “The different links of the value chain need to know each other to increase transparency, information exchange, justice and solidarity between them. When the community based cooperatives start to pay a fair price for Brazil nuts, other buyers star to increase theirs, as well”, says Kirsten Silvius, Project Coordinator for Value Chains with the USFS.