The Brazil nut oil found in LXMI 33 has a really amazing conservation story. The Brazil nut tree, also known as the Bertholletia Excelsa, grows wild and is the tallest tree found in the Amazon often reaching heights of over 160 feet. It’s found in the forests of Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Suriname. The Brazil nut tree is one of the Amazon's longest-living organisms, living up to 1,000 YEARS! The tree has a very intricate and vital part of the Amazon rainforest.
The flower of the Brazil nuts are pollinated by orchid bees. Once pollinated, its fruit ripens and falls to the ground from January to June. Each fruit is a seed pod that contains about 10-20 seeds and takes over 15 months to develop. The shell of the seed pod is so rigid that the only known animal who can open the pod is the agouti, a cute little forest creature that resembles a large guinea pig, who uses its exceptionally sharp teeth to gnaw through the pods. The agouti eats some seeds, or “nuts”, and spreads the rest of the seeds by burying them, consequently planting new trees. The seed pods are also inhabited by other animals and insects who use the empty pods as shelter. The interdependency of the Brazil nut tree and other organisms in the rainforest create a very delicate web of survival. If any of these species go extinct, then so will the Brazil nut tree and vice versa.
Due to the Brazil nut tree’s intricate ecological requirements, the tree is also very sensitive to deforestation where trees are destroyed and cleared for agriculture. When deforestation occurs, this human-driven action is devastating as the Brazil nut tree can only bear fruit in its wild, natural environment. Previous efforts to cultivate the tree on plantations have failed thus making Brazil nuts such as treasured non-timber products found exclusively in the Amazon rainforest.
The Brazil nut also plays an important role in conservation. For survival, indigenous communities may be pressured to take part in environmentally harmful activities like gold mining or logging. Thankfully, sustainable harvesting of these nuts has become a source of income and provides a livelihood for the indigenous community inadvertently converting Brazil nut harvesters into protectors of the forest. Through projects like LXMI’s partnership with Conservation International and the Trio Tribe of Southern Suriname, members of the Alalapadu community of Suriname are given jobs and economic incentives to conserve the forests. Through this partnership, 235,000 hectares of pristine Amazon rainforest are protected. That’s the approximate equivalent of 235,000 football fields or the size of 40 Manhattans.
Pretty amazing, isn’t it?