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Monday, April 12, 2021

This palm tree practically went extinct. Now its super-berries are serving to to put it aside.

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However the juçara berry, which grows on a palm tree of the identical title, is providing much more than antioxidants — it is serving to to revive Brazil’s devastated Atlantic Forest.

A lush tropical forest that stretched greater than 2,500 miles alongside Brazil’s shoreline, and inland to Paraguay and Argentina, the Atlantic Forest as soon as coated 12% of Brazil’s land space. However within the sixteenth century, Portuguese colonizers started changing forest with sugar cane, and later, espresso plantations. Since then, agriculture and concrete enlargement have accelerated deforestation and in the present day, simply 7% of the unique forest stays.
The juçara palm is threatened not solely by deforestation, but in addition by its personal tastiness. The tree’s palm coronary heart — a comfortable fruit within the trunk — is a nutritious delicacy. Most palms can regrow from their shoots however the juçara can’t, so when the palm coronary heart is eliminated, the tree dies.
Traditionally, indigenous communities used the tree for meals and timber, however small-scale harvesting of this slow-growing palm did not threaten its survival. That modified within the Sixties when business exploitation prompted speedy decline and the tree grew to become endangered.
Now, a Brazil-based startup says it has discovered an answer. Juçaí harvests the tree’s berries, fairly than its palm hearts, so the tree can stay standing — producing fruit yearly and serving to the forest to flourish.

Based in 2015, Juçaí works with a community of native farmers and buys juçara berries for its merchandise, together with smoothies and sorbets, says Bruno Corrêa, the corporate’s common supervisor.

“The thought from the beginning was to construct a variety of merchandise that was not solely good high quality and nutritious, but in addition that created a constructive, virtuous circle to protect the tree,” he says.

Farming might help save the forest

The Atlantic Forest is protected by regulation, says Rafael Bitante, forest restoration supervisor for the SOS Mata Atlântica, a non-governmental group that helps reforestation initiatives. Nonetheless, weak enforcement has led to unlawful exploitation of the juçara palm, he says.

That is the place Juçaí is available in. Via farming cooperatives, the corporate works with practically 900 households in Espirito Santo State, and its attain is extending south into Parana State. Farmers plant new timber, or nurture current ones, whereas Juçaí oversees logistics and supplies the gear wanted to show the berries into pulp and separate out the seeds — that are then planted.

The Atlantic Forest is one of the most biodiverse places in the world, with more than 20,000 plant species.

Unlawful slicing within the forest remains to be a difficulty, however harvesting berries presents a comparable revenue and is a “clear and simple” choice for farmers, says Corrêa. The tree’s financial worth incentivizes farmers to protect it, he says, and that advantages the entire ecosystem.

“The tree is necessary not solely when it comes to forest protection and the way it protects the soil but in addition for the fauna, particularly birds,” he says, including that farmers depart a 3rd of the berries on the tree throughout every harvest, to assist wildlife.

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Others have additionally seen the worth of the residing tree. Açaí Barbacuá, a family-run enterprise, and EcoNativa, an natural farming cooperative, have created networks for native famers to reap and promote juçara berry pulp.
These juçara initiatives are a type of “agroforestry.” This strategy to land administration mixes nature and agriculture, by establishing farms on forest fringes and planting crop-yielding timber on farms and in gardens, says Laury Cullen, a forest engineer with Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas, an environmental analysis group in Brazil.

Mixed with reforested “corridors,” agroforestry zones can present “stepping-stones” that assist wildlife like butterflies and birds transfer between fragmented sections of the remaining forest, says Cullen.

Agroforestry additionally advantages communities, says Cullen. In Sao Paulo State, the place he works, farmers develop espresso timber beneath the shade of the forest cover. In line with Cullen, biodiversity and cover protection have elevated, whereas farmers’ incomes have grown by 26%.

More than 1,000 species of birds live in the Atlantic Forest. Many, like this spot-billed toucanet, feed on juçara berries.

Bitante says the kind of sustainable farming Juçaí promotes advantages the setting and the economic system. “It’s important to strengthen the hyperlink between the upkeep of biodiversity and society, valuing the standing forest and guaranteeing the safety of this lovely biome.”

Berry nutritious

Juçaí hopes that creating a robust marketplace for the juçara berry might help construct a greater future for the farmers and, in flip, the forest.

Similar to the açai berry, the superfood is discovering a fan base among the many wellness crowd, says Corrêa. Juçara berries are excessive in energy-dense fatty acids and filled with antioxidants within the type of polyphenols, identified for selling coronary heart well being. A 2020 research on the impact of juçara and açai consumption in wholesome adults discovered that after 4 weeks, ranges of antioxidant enzymes and “good” ldl cholesterol elevated.
Juçaí uses the berry seeds from pulp production to plant new juçara seedlings.

Licensed natural and vegan, Juçaí at the moment sells its merchandise in each supermarkets and specialised well being meals shops in Brazil, Chile and Canada, and hopes to increase into different markets. “Individuals are more and more conscious of what they eat, each from a vitamin perspective as effectively from a sustainable one,” says Corrêa.

Since its launch, Juçaí has been accountable for maintaining round 31,000 juçara palm timber standing, Corrêa says. For Juçaí, preserving the Atlantic Forest and its biodiversity is what drives the enterprise.

“Juçara is the long-lasting tree of the Atlantic Forest,” he says. “The product solely exists due to that sustainability mission.”

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