Indulging in a Brazil nut may seem like a simple pleasure with undeniable health benefits, but it goes beyond being just a nutritious treat. Could it be a crucial act contributing to the preservation of one of the world's greatest natural wonders—the Amazon jungle?
Experts, including the World Wildlife Fund, assert that the fate of the global Brazil nut trade holds significant implications for the forest, its diverse wildlife, and the communities inhabiting it.
In the heart of the jungle, the nut harvest is underway, marking four months of strenuous labor lasting until March. The challenging work stems from the fact that Brazil nut trees thrive naturally in the wild, refusing to conform to plantation life. Scattered in groups of twenty or thirty across vast expanses of jungle, the nuts grow within a thick, woody outer shell, akin to a coconut, hanging high in towering trees. Harvesting only becomes possible when these nuts fall, requiring dedicated teams to collect, open the pods, and transport them back to riverbanks or collection points. Traders purchase these nuts for international markets after shelling.
Crucially, this harvest sustains thousands of families in Bolivia, Peru, and Brazil. By providing a viable livelihood through nut production, it reduces the economic pressure to clear jungle areas for alternative agricultural income.
Although illegal to fell the Brazil nut trees in these three countries (scientifically known as Bertholletia excelsa), their survival depends on the surrounding pristine jungle. This environment houses giant bees crucial for pollination and a small rodent, the agouti, which buries nuts like a squirrel with acorns, inadvertently planting the seeds for future trees.
The Brazil nut business acts as a protective shield against further deforestation, preventing additional vast areas of the jungle from disappearing at an alarming rate—equivalent to the size of a football pitch every second.
However, the business is not without vulnerabilities, as seen in the 2016-17 period when weather challenges led to a 50% reduction in the crop, causing international prices to soar. Many businesses hesitated to buy, destabilizing the trade. Only now is the industry showing signs of stability, with reports from the jungle indicating a healthy outlook for the 2019-2020 crop.
So, next time you savor a Brazil nut, relish not just its taste but also the impact your choice may have in preserving the rich biodiversity and ecological balance of the Amazon jungle.