Location: Curralinho, Brazil
White Crow Consultant: Tyler Sanderson
Executive Summary of Agroecosystem Resilience Research
In three decades, açaí moved from providing sustenance for rural communities to an international superfood. Meanwhile, the timber industry was facing regulatory pressure and resource depletion. This pressure caused a need for communities to shift their focus to a new trade. Fortunately, açaí provided a nearly equivalent source of income for the local communities because of its high-profit potential. However, the intensification of açaí also exacerbated & created new vulnerabilities; mitigating the benefits associated with this demanded superfood. Still, many have turned to the açaí trade because of the need to replace income once made from the timber trade. Therefore, understanding the impact of this increased focus on açaí is necessary.
One of the most common methods to study the vulnerabilities of communities is through an assessment of agroecosystem resilience. Furthermore, before this study, there has not been published work on the influence of the intensification of açaí on the agroecosystem resilience of açaí harvesting communities. Therefore, this work seeks to move research forward in this manner. Additionally, within most açaí harvesting regions there is a difference in communities; some work directly with an organization and others work independently. One type of organization that has received little focus is grassroots organizations. For this reason, the research sought two communities, one with the influence of a grassroots organization and one that does not. This thesis will provide a comprehensive view of the overall impact that the intensification of açaí has on the agroecosystem resilience of açaí harvesting communities.
For a comprehensive view, a multiple-case study methodology is appropriate. The first community was Comunidade São Jorge, who work independently in this trade. The second community is called Coração de Jesus, which is actively participating with Sementes do Marajó, a grassroots organization. These communities are different in this aspect, but they are similar in population size, distance from the nearest city & port, and because of the percentage of individuals involved in açaí harvesting & sale. This research sought to understand how the intensification of açaí influenced the development of organizational processes, how these processes reflect against previous literature, and it assessed the impact of Sementes do Marajó on agroecosystem resilience. Through the analysis of previous research, observation of the communities, forty in-depth interviews, four gender-based focus groups, and seventy-three agricultural surveys in the communities, these questions were answered. In congruence with these answers, one focus group and eleven relevant actors brought forth necessary background information.
Overall, this research determined that the agroecosystem resilience of communities in Curralinho is based on the presence of Sementes do Marajó or not. Sementes do Marajó had a positive influence in reducing or removing six vulnerabilities that would have existed otherwise. The vulnerabilities that are positively influenced by Sementes do Marajó are, Social Events within Communities, Sell to Multiple Types of Buyers, Sell to a Local Market, Earn a Livable Wage, Connection between Universities, Researchers & Farmers, and Understanding the Limits of Production. Second, Sementes do Marajó was found to have a negative influence on one vulnerability; Reliance on Government Assistance. Third, Sementes do Marajó has a varied influence on the sub-indicators of Decision-Making Autonomy and Multiple Income Sources. The community that did not work with Sementes do Marajó was found to be facing more overall vulnerabilities today. Theoretically, by choosing to not work with Sementes do Marajó, these communities are at more risk if an external threat reaches their community.