context: the area of pristine rainforest located in the Middle Xingu River, State of Para, Brazilian Amazon, is of extreme importance to the biodiversity and preservation of natural habitats. It is the breeding grounds of numerous unique animal species, such as the harpy eagle and the giant river otter. The eight Indian tribes spread over six reserves that legally own the land have a total population of 1,234 and all they want is to protect their land from invasion and destruction.
what: Amazoncoop is a not-for-profit organisation set up in 1998 to raise donations and develop sustainable businesses to benefit six Indian tribes of the Brazilian Amazon. It has a membership of 1,740 people, of whom 18 are not Indians but were appointed by the tribes. The non-Indians work with the tribes through the Altamira Indian Agency.
mission: to secure the conservation and protection of an area of 5,397,774 hectares (53,977 square kilometres) of pristine rainforest; to develop business activities to generate income through the sustainable use of the land that will allow the tribes to prosper and continue to live their traditional lives while having proper health care, education and protection of their only asset: their land.
how it works: the co-op provides the Indians with a legal independent body that represents the indigenous peoples. The Brazilian constitution grants the Indian tribes the right of full representation via their appointed leaders or representatives. The co-op elects its board of directors every four years. Regular meetings establish tasks and objectives. The role of the Advisory board is to advise the co-op in its business strategy and to act as ambassadors, meeting with companies and organisations. The advisory board meets regularly in Altamira and is linked via internet to the executive board.
areas of concern: health care assistance, education, patrolling of the Indian reserves.
activities: the Amazoncoop generates income from the following business initiatives: production of essential oils, information technology services, ecotourism. In the town of Altamira, the Amazoncoop has a warehouse, a cyber café and internet server, and a medicinal plant garden. It also has a jungle lodge with 15 double rooms on an island in the Xingu River, 140 km. upstream from Altamira. The co-op employs 21 people on a permanent basis and 48 Xypaia Indians living in the town of Altamira during the Brazil nut oil season (5 months a year).
example of initiative: Green Pharmacy & Essential Oils - The Amazoncoop has its own medicinal plant farm where 81 different herbs are cultivated organically. The herbal medicines produced have been subjected to scientific medical research, and the active ingredients submitted to rigorous scientific validation. The plants are used to make tinctures, syrups and teas, and ground into powders to make capsules and creams.
The co-operative also produces and exports Brazil nut oil at fair trade prices for The Body Shop International, one of Amazoncoop's supporters. Brazil nut oil is used to produce various cosmetic products, such as creams, hair conditioners and shampoos. The nuts are harvested by the tribes and then processed at the Amazoncoop's warehouse in Altamira.