As the world breathes a sigh of relief about progress at the recent climate conference in Paris, the Puerto Arturo indigenous community in southeast Peru is hard at work protecting their forest home. The year’s end means harvest time for this castañero community, harvesters who provide for their families by sustainably gathering castañas (which we know as Brazil nuts) that have fallen from trees in pristine Amazonian forest, which they then sell to international markets. Their way of life not only provides an income, but leaves the forest completely intact, which benefits all of us by storing carbon, essential to combating global climate change as the world’s leaders recognized in Paris just last week.
Lorenzo Bascope Mamío and three of his children live in a small indigenous community in the northern Bolivian Amazon. Their community is called Las Mercedes “in honor of my mother,” he says with pride. His parents founded the remote community over 15 years ago. It takes about 7 hours by river to reach Las Mercedes from the nearest city.
He is Tacana, and like his parents before him, Lorenzo harvests Brazil nuts as his primary (and forest-friendly) source of income. Part of being Tacana is the tradition of Brazil nut harvesting, which goes hand in hand with conservation. Caring for these trees protects the whole forest, as Brazil nuts only grow in wild, healthy ecosystems. Lorenzo puts it simply: “It fills me with pride to be Tacana and coexist with the forest.”
Reina Valencia was born in Puerto Arturo, and at 41 years old is now its president. She provides for her family of 8 through Brazil nut harvesting, as do the 35 other families in the community. With income from Brazil nut sales, she is able to buy what she needs for the entire year, including clothes and school supplies for her children.
ACA partnered with Puerto Arturo 5 years ago to improve Brazil nut harvesting , and there is no looking back. “The Brazil nut program has improved the entire community,” says Reina. “I am proud of my dedication to the castaña, and to my community.