Ancient indigenous peoples had a far more profound impact on the composition of the vast Amazon rainforest than previously known, according to a study showing how tree species domesticated by humans long ago still dominate big swathes of the wilderness.
Researchers said many tree species populating the Amazon region appear to be abundant because they were cultivated by people who populated the area before Europeans arrived more than five centuries ago. These include the Brazil nut, cacao, açaí palm, rubber, caimito, cashew, and tucumã palm.
So the Amazon is not nearly as untouched as it may seem
The researchers used data on the tree composition of forests at 1,170 sites throughout the Amazon and compared it to a map of more than 3,000 known archaeological sites representing past human settlements.
The study found that 85 tree species known to have been used by Amazonian peoples for fruit, nuts, building materials and other purposes over the past roughly 8,000 years were five times more likely to be dominant in mature Amazon forests than species that had not been domesticated.
It also found that forests closer to the pre-Columbian settlements were much more likely to boast tree species domesticated by ancient peoples.
The Amazon rainforest is a powerful natural feature in South America and one of the world’s richest biological reservoirs, teeming with plant and animal life. Much of it is situated in Brazil, but parts are also in Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, Ecuador and French Guiana.
Many of the trees found in large numbers represent species critical for the livelihood and economy of Amazonian peoples. At the time of European conquest, there were an estimated 8 to 10 million people in the Amazon, speaking at least 400 different languages.
The superfood market continues to grow at a rate substantially higher than the food average. The volume of ‘super’ products grew 202% 2011–2015 and now extends from food to beauty to health, hygiene, cosmetics and pet products.
Açai is the fastest-growing superfood — in 2015 it accounted for only 3% of the niche superfood market. Awareness, availability and buyer’s willingness to pay a premium price point to a high growth opportunity.
Demand for premium and sustainably sourced brazil nuts is ahead of current supply capabilities. Harvesting is only driven by disorganized cooperatives, while a lack of private investment has hampered growth. Leadership, management, and technology will unlock the growth potential that has been held back to date.
EBCF is to penetrate the market
EBCF will face competition from the Mutran family and the Bolivian exporters. EBCF’s strategy and rationale to penetrate the market are the following:
• Offer premium certified Brazil Nuts (FSC, Rainforest Alliance, Brazil Organic, USDA Organic, Fair Trade and Non-GMO) with competitive prices
• The offer of Brazil Nuts is limited to the availability of the product in the forest. While EBCF is not organized to harvest/buy the products from the communities, others are doing so, including the Mutran family. As EBCF organizes to harvest the products from the Reserve and surrounding areas, it will control a share of the nuts available to the market.
• In the conversations EBCF has had with some traders, it was made clear that they would like to have supply alternatives to the Mutran family and the Bolivian producers, so EBCF will position itself as an alternative supplier with quality products at competitive prices.