It’s already very hot and humid and it’s barely 8am. The sun is desperately needed though, the village is just coming out of the rainy season and in the Amazon that means road transport becomes pretty much impossible as huge areas are flooded and everything turns to mud, so moving heavy weights of nuts to river transport is impossible.
The house is up early, their daily routine is much the same as any family in the UK, with children breakfasted and teeth cleaned and off to school the main work of the day gathering nuts for all those at home can begin.
We all head off into the forest for a day gathering Brazil nuts. We’ve walk for about 40 minutes and are now at the edge of the forest. The gatherers use large machetes to hack their way through the undergrowth, there are well worn paths under foot but one day on a path is never the same as the next. Time has moved on and some gatherers will use motorbikes to ferry back and forth carefully navigating their way through the Brazil trees.
To give you an idea of the size this vast forest covers 9 million hectares, and that is just Bolivia’s northern area! If I have worked it out correctly that’s about 16 million international size football pitches!
Just a little way in off the main path we arrive at a small clearing and there as my eyes follow the tree trunk up skyward the size of this towering giant the Brazil nut tree suddenly dawns on me, the trees are found throughout the amazon but in greater numbers in Brazil, Peru and Bolivia – their size and majesty is amazing, they have been known to grow as high as 60 metres and live for more than 1000 years.
Virtually all Brazil nuts come from wild trees; the tree produces a large woody fruit, similar on the outside to the coconut, each of which contains 15-20 seeds or Brazil nuts with the shells on …. Harvesting is November through January mainly.
The gatherers set about harvesting the fallen fruits from under the trees this hasn’t varied much over time, once a large mound is formed the gatherers then set about releasing the seeds, they break each fruit open and tip the Brazil nuts in to large sacks. They spend days, weeks and months gathering nuts, why? The Amazon forest in the area is the single most important source of income for the region and its natural products form the basis for employment and livelihood for most people that live there, I believe that Brazil nuts harvested create approximately 22,000 jobs, there are c.6000 households depending on Brazil nut gathering as the main source income.
By Richard Cooper, continued..
Have you visited this wonderful country? If so, please feel free to tell us your stories and show us your photos in the comments below.
National Nut Day, 22nd October 2015