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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 Conservación Amazónica-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.

How Far We’ve Come

Since 1999, ACA’s “Conserving Brazil Nut Forests” program has supported more than 600 harvesters in the protection of nearly two million acres of rainforest. As of 2014, the program has helped:

  • establish 476 Brazil nut concessions, mapping each one with GIS
  • redesign Brazil nut trails to improve efficiency and minimize environmental impact
  • obtain voluntary Forest Stewardship Council and organic certifications for 48 concessions, and assisted an indigenous forestry association who applied for Fair Trade and organic certifications (which help the harvesters obtain better prices while ensuring best practices)
  • train more than 200 indigenous Brazil nut harvesters to survey and map their Brazil nut stands, create management plans, and achieve and maintain their certifications (all of which are requirements according to Peruvian law)
  • improve Brazil nut management for more than 370 Brazil nut concessions and in two indigenous communities along the Tambopata National Reserve buffer zone. Our support includes trainings in organizational and marketing skills, developing Brazil nut management plans, and strengthening ecotourism initiatives.

These concessions now act as a buffer to deforestation along the Interoceanic Highway, which traverses southeastern Peru. 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.

rev. June 2015


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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