Liberation followers will already know that the majority of the world’s supply of brazil nuts come from Bolivia…the rest come from Brazil and Peru. At Liberation we buy Fairtrade brazil nuts from our shareholder small-scale brazil nut gatherers who live in the remote Amazon rainforest region of Bolivia. This week our Operations Manager, Angela and Chair of the Board of Directors, Richard have made the long journey to visit the brazil nut gatherer communities. When we say a ‘long journey’, we mean they set off from Heathrow last Saturday and had their first meeting with brazil nut gatherers on Tuesday! Brazil nut gatherers know all about arduous journeys. Every year around this time they travel by foot deep into the forest to gather brazil nuts. Then they transport the nuts – by foot, bike, tractor, boat and eventually truck – to the co-operative’s collection depot, from where the nuts are shelled, packed and exported to the UK.
As we have reported recently, this year is proving to be a very tough year for the brazil nut harvest and hence for the communities who rely on it for their main source of annual income. Climate-change related weather issues have resulted in a poor crop of brazil nuts and, despite resultant high prices, gatherers will really struggle to make enough money to sustain their families this year. As a result, there are likely to be shortages of brazil nuts in the UK. Angela and Richard also report that the factories that shell, clean and pack the nuts ready for export will be badly hit this year. These factories are the main source of employment in the Riberalta area which is the hub of the Bolvian brazil nut industry.
Angela and Richard have spent time with Liberation suppliers and brazil nut gatherers in the community of ‘Buen Destino’. Gatherers there report that they have so far collected about half of what they would normally. Still able to look on the bright side, Alcides Niconabe, his wife Maria Achicha and their fellow gatherers were pleased to also report on their Fairtrade premium from last year’s sales of brazil nuts to Liberation. The premium was spent on a fund for emergency health care for community members who have a problem that cannot be treated at the small medical centre in this remote community. The fund pays for transport to and treatment at a larger clinic that has permanent doctors.
We will continue to work very closely with the brazil nut gatherers to secure as much crop as we can from this difficult harvest – both to sustain the communities and to keep up with the ever rising demand for fabulous Fairtrade brazil nuts. Efforts are also underway to galvanise support for the brazil nut gathering and processing region from the Bolivian government. It is necessary both to better understand and mitigate the impact of climate change and to provide immediate relief for gatherers and workers affected by reduced income. We will keep you posted.