From Next Million, writer Tracy Elsen profiles Ouro Verde.
Laranja believes that the Mato Grosso's Brazil nut trees, combined with the power of small business, can help stop deforestation. A longtime environmental activist, Laranja left his job as a professor eight years ago and moved to the Amazon rainforest to start Ouro Verde, a sustainable Brazil nut company. Ouro Verde buys, processes and sells high-quality Brazil nuts and products, including Brazil nut meal, extra virgin oil, and butter.
Laranja's company is transforming the living rainforest into a source of income for Mato Grosso's rural residents. "I really believe that what we have to use to preserve the forests is the market," he says. "If the forest does not provide money for the people, it will be impossible to save it." Ouro Verde creates special relationships with local indigenous and small-holder farmer communities that collect and supply Brazil nuts. By eliminating the high profit margin "middle man" between the company and local suppliers, Ouro Verde can pay its suppliers fair wages and thus make the living forest more valuable than lumber exploitation or landclearing.
Ouro Verde also provides training to those involved in Brazil nut collection to help improve collection, storage, and transportation, ensuring the company receives premium quality and suppliers receive a premium price. Thanks to its practices, the company earned organic certification for its entire product line from Ecocert Brasil, including certificates that address the specific requirements of the Brazilian, European and American markets.
The economic value provided by Brazil nut trees also protects the surrounding trees. Brazil nut trees produce at their highest levels when they live in healthy, primary forests. Therefore, nut collectors are incentivized to protect entire forests surrounding Brazil nut trees in order to access the largest, best-quality crops.