Wild harvested açaí helps generate income for riverside populations of Pará
Considered by many nutritionists to be a superfood because it is one of the richest sources of antioxidants, açaí can be used in the form of beverages, jellies, sweets and ice cream, among others, and has gained the national and international market. The açaí berry offers an opportunity for economic development that combines the social inclusion of family farmers with the conservation of forest ecosystems.
Brazil’s largest açaí production center is in the Tocantins River region in Pará. A region with hundreds of islands and about 50,000 inhabitants, which basically survive from açai extraction, wild cocoa and fishing. Sustainable activity in the region provides food and income for thousands of riverside families. It is precisely in one of these areas, in the municipality of Abaetetuba, that the company Almazonia has been investing in the work and purchase of the product directly from the communities to establish the so-called “rainforest economy”, turning native families into guardians of the Amazon.
The state of Pará is the largest cocoa producer in Brazil, with an annual production of 132 thousand tons. One of the natural centers of the wild cacao production is the municipality of Limoeiro do Ajuru, located in northeastern Pará, in the Tocantins River zone. With a population of just over 28,000, according to the Brazil Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), the city has become one of Almazonia’s partners for the purchase of wild cacao. An activity that contributes to the preservation of the biodiversity of the Amazon rainforest. The main partnership maintained in the municipality is with the cooperative of the local community, which helps in the organization of the purchases of wild cacao for the company Almazonia.
One of the predominant features in this region is that it has few areas of firm ground, especially in the area of islands. Most of the land is formed by floodplains and low areas, subject to flooding. For this reason, the vegetation, for the most part, does not have huge trees, as in the forests that consist of solid ground.
In this region it is necessary to follow the pace dictated by nature as the Tocantins river rises twice a day. And at these times, much of the forest is flooded. When sea level rises, the riverbed also rises. Collecting the cacao pods can only be done when the river is low.
Advantages wild cacao
Wild cacao has the potential to achieve the best quality, mainly because of the environment characteristics that make the flavor and aroma special. Native cacao is collected by the riverside communities and sold as a result of a natural process of extractivism. This fact further enhances the potential of the product to generate income for traditional and riverside communities of the Amazon.
Native Cacao Studies
The work developed by the company with the communities of Limoeiro do Ajuru is also enriched by its partnership with institutions such as the Federal Rural University of Amazonia (UFRA), which promotes studies on cacao management with producers in the region, and fosters research to identify the different types of native cacao in the municipality.
Almazonia controls the entire process, from fermentation to drying. For this, it uses its own structure, specially assembled for this purpose, in the municipality of Abaetetuba, in the northeast region of Pará. In this way, it can guarantee the quality and consistency required for production. Samples of the wild cacao beans have already been sent to several chocolate factories and distributors in Europe and the US.