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Bad news for Brazil lovers

A Brazil nut crisis for rainforest communities…

So we’re talking about Brazil?

Actually, no. You’ll find the towering, wide-canopied Brazil nut tree right across the Amazon region. In fact it’s Bolivia that satisfies most of the world’s appetite for the nutritious, selenium-rich crop – and that’s where Eat Natural gets its Brazil nuts. The entire crop grows wild – the tree simply won’t fruit outside of its natural environment – and so along waterways, on jungle paths and in forest clearings families and whole communities bring in the harvest.

Why are they so important?

Since rubber ceased to be king in this part of South America, the Brazil nut has become the main source of income for more than half the population. But being so reliant on a single crop makes communities here vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Last season, production was down as much as 50% after an unusually dry November, and high winds have brought down trees that have taken hundreds of years to grow. These forest giants are surprisingly fragile and without an organised reforestation programme their loss has had a serious effect.

What does this mean for Eat Natural bars?

We’ve been unable to secure a consistent supply of good Brazils for our Makery, which is a big deal because from our earliest days we’ve been hooked on the creamy flavour and crunchy textures that Brazils bring to our bars and cereals. But rather than simply substitute Brazils with other nuts, we’ve tweaked our recipes to get as close as possible to the original flavour profile of our brazil & sultana bar and our darker chocolate Brazils and apricot bar, both of which are affected by the shortage.

What’s Eat Natural doing to help?

For Brazil nut gatherers on the ground in the Amazon region last year was incredibly tough with families falling into real poverty. We didn’t think it was enough to simply hope a better season would fix everything, so we’ve been supporting CIPCA – a Bolivian NGO working with 23 rural communities affected by the crisis. Our funds are helping establish nurseries to raise new seedlings of important crops: cacao, asai, timber, medicinal species and, of course, Brazil nuts trees.

So what’s next? 

The news from Bolivia is encouraging. The rainy season is over and as the harvest approaches the tall Brazil nut trees bear a promising number of woody ‘cocos’, from which the nuts are collected. Collaborating with indigenous leaders, CIPCA is working to safeguard future harvests by improving fire barriers, repairing access routes and encouraging sustainable practices. So there’s a rosier outlook for Brazil lovers, but importantly for the rural communities which rely on the crops, too.

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