|Brazil nuts, with shell.|
Ever had a fresh Brazil nut? Not those hard, over-salted things that come in the mixed-nuts can, but a real fresh one straight from the tree? Well, I hadn't either until this trip, and they are as good as they are hard to get into. You have to use a machete, and some patience and delicacy to pry the moist meat from its shell. It tastes a lot like fresh coconut.
"People come out here to harvest nuts sometimes," our guide Izzy tells us. "But it is too far away to come often." This area is very far from any village, both up and downstream. "People plant them, too, but it takes 20 years before you get your first crop. They grow best in old forest like this, and if we had a guaranteed market for them, it might be worth coming out more." Izzy is referring to issues with what conservationists call "sustainable harvesting." Harvesting Brazil nuts is a potentially competitive economic alternative to deforestation of the rainforest in South America.
|Jensen at the base of a Brazil nut tree. |
Conservation International is working with communities all over South and Central America to help find guaranteed markets for these rainforest friendly products. Brazil nuts, coffee, cocoa, and certain latexes can be grown in the deep shade of an old rain forest, and sold on a world market without destroying wildlife habitat. However, activities need to be planned carefully to make sure the communities are interested in producing the products, and that there really is a long-term demand for the products in the world market.
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