Sustainable Livelihoods, Brazil Nut Program

From Brazil nuts to community forestry projects, ACA seeks out and supports initiatives that serve the dual purpose of protecting biodiversity while providing an income to local people.

Programa Conservando Castañales

Brazil nuts have a significant local and international market and are a natural link to conservation, since the trees only produce in a healthy rainforest ecosystem. Endemic to the Amazon basin, these towering canopy trees grow to 165 feet and have a lifespan of several hundred years. In Peru, areas of forest with dense stands of Brazil nut trees are known as castañales. These areas are given as concessions to local Brazil nut harvesters, called castañeros, who manage them under contracts with the Peruvian forest service. Brazil nut concessions are privately managed conservation areas that allow harvesters and their families to make an income from intact forest. Brazil nut harvesters sell the nuts to local shelling factories, which pack and export the product overseas. This extractive activity provides more than half the yearly income for thousands of families in the Amazon and protects several million acres of forest from deforestation.

Watch the video below about our work with Brazil Nut Harvesters produced by the Green Living Project»


How We Help

ACA and its sister organization ACCA do more than any other organization to support Brazil nut harvesters in Madre de Dios, Peru. Our research aims to understand the Brazil nut tree’s biology, as well as the effects of their Brazil nut stand management practices and on nut extraction. And, in partnership with local co-ops, ACCA’s field team offers training seminars for Brazil nut harvesters to improve their collection techniques, develop management plans, and create value-added production chains. ACA supports 4 Brazil nut harvesting associations. For example, we work with RONAP, an assocation that is fair-trade certified, has 72 members, and produces about 88 tons of Brazil nuts a year.

How Far We’ve Come

Since 1997, our Brazil Nut Project has protected more than 1.5 million acres of tropical rainforest and provided technical support to more than 420 families earning a living as Brazil nut harvesters. The program has helped these families:

  • Establish 476 Brazil nut concessions
  • Map each concession with GIS
  • Redesign Brazil nut trails to improve efficiency and minimize environmental impact
  • Obtain voluntary Forest Stewardship Council and organic certifications for 48 concessions
  • Develop more than 370 sustainable forest management plans, approved by the Peruvian forest service

These concessions now act as a buffer to deforestation along a new international highway. Our research in these concessions has amassed one of the largest Brazil nut databases in existence: data on the age, size, productivity, health, and locations of 84,740 individual trees. Learn more (in Spanish)»


Photo of brazil nut pods

Brazil nut pods with Brazil nuts inside. Photo: Andre Bartschi

Photo of ACA harvesters' workshop

ACCA workshop for Brazil nut harvesters in Alegria, Peru. Photo: Nurymar Feldman

Photo of man carrying load of Brazil nuts

Castañero carries a load of Brazil nuts from the forest. Photo: Nurymar Feldman

Brazil nuts drying

Brazil nut drying facility supported by ACA. Photo: Cesar Moran

Photo of two men looking at Brazil nut regeneration

Researchers study Brazil nut regeneration. Photo: Andre Barschi

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