Located at the region known as “Arc of Deforestation” in the northwestern of Mato Grosso, the municipality of Juruena houses the Vale do Amanhecer settlement with an area of 140 km², sheltering 250 families.
The Juruena region has outstanding environmental importance for being an ecotone, a transition area between two biomes, the Brazilian Cerrado and the Amazon. "The ecosystem transition areas are home to endemic species, which means that those species are only found there. If the vegetation is not protected, these species could become extinct," explains agronomist Paulo César Nunes, one of the pioneers of the region's sustainable development.
Implemented by the National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA) in 1999, the location is a rare case of success of settlements of agrarian reform in the region, and became a model and reference for combining environmental conservation and income generation, with increased quality of life for settlers.
In the stage of settlement regularization, a community reserve was created with an area of 72 km², equivalent to 7,200 official soccer fields. The Floresta do Vale, as the community is known, is an important stronghold for native vegetation and has guaranteed sustainable income to the settlers. The place has high potential for extractive activities, with about 2.5 billion nut trees.
The settlers do not profit from the wood. The idea is to work only with non-timber forest products. Settler Antonio Bento de Oliveira and his son, Alexandre, from Goiás state, collected about 2,000 kilos of nut in the community reserve in the harvest of 2015/2016. "I'm earning more with the nut than with milk. In my little farm, I have a vegetable garden and I deal with dairy farming, but I earn more with the nut," he says, claiming that the farm is too small to afford a family of four children.
The properties of Vale do Amanhecer have 24 hectares of land, equivalent to 24 soccer fields. Oliveira has 25 heads of cattle on the farm that was bought in 2004, when the first land owners, who had gained the land, decided to leave after it having explored all the wood of the property. "If it wasn't for this mobilization for the nut, no one would be living here anymore," stated Oliveira.
The nut trees do not have owners, those who arrive first can grab the nuts. "Only the settlers can grab them, but we do not fight. There is nut for everyone," reports Oliveira.
The nut sale is guaranteed. The production is purchased by the Vale do Amanhecer Farmers Cooperative (COOPAVAM), created by the settlers in mid-2008 to the processing and to sell the product. The cooperative has 67 members registered and purchases nuts from about 1,500 extractive families that stopped selling the product at a low price to middlemen. Among the sellers are the following indigenous peoples: Apiaká, Caiaby, Munduruku and Cinta Larga. Before the harvest, COOPAVAM defines and informs the volume to be acquired.
Based on the project Doação Simultânea (Simultaneous Donation), signed under the Food Acquisition Program (PAA), the COOPAVAM sells part of the production to the National Supply Company (CONAB), which donates food for school meals, social care networks, popular priced restaurants and community kitchens. This nut is used to feed 42,000 people in a risk situation of food and nutrition insecurity in eight municipalities in the northwest of the state, according to COOPAVAM. Moreover, the cooperative negotiates with large companies that sell natural products.
In 2008, the middlemen paid about $0.14 per kilo of nut. In the same year, the COOPAVAM began paying $0.33 per kilo. In the harvest of 2015/2016, we paid $0.97 per kilo of raw cashew nuts. Until April, the cooperative had already purchased 80 tons of nuts. Only the drying stage increases 30% in the price. The packed nut is sold at about $8.33 per kilo.
In addition to the extractive work, the settlers can also work at the cooperative processing plant during the period of harvest. Antônio Oliveira, for example, extracts and also works breaking nuts for a daily rate. "If you work every day in two shifts, it is possible to get about $833.00 per month," says Oliveira.
COOPAVAM's president Luzirene Lustosa reports that all decisions are taken collectively. “The settlers manage the business administration and logistics." According to her, new ideas have emerged among the cooperative members aiming to expand and qualify the business. About 200-300 tons of the product are expected to be sold this year.
Vale do Amanhecer is the only Brazilian settlement approved as legal reserve and all its nut trees had been georeferenced. "It is the only forest fully protected and monitored in the country's settlements," proudly states Paulo César Nunes, general coordinator and creator of the project Sentinelas da Floresta (Forest's Sentinels), which enables the creation of a new production chain for the region, an alternative to the wood.
The project is currently funded by the Amazon Fund, through the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES). The initiative is awarded by the United Nations (UN) and the Banco do Brasil Foundation and has received support from Petrobras Environmental Program and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in addition to the federal government.
Translated by Amarílis Anchieta
Fonte: Agência Brasil.