The Brazil nut tree grows only in the Amazonian rainforest. Apart from being a great nutritional source for both animals and humans worldwide, an important part of the Amazonian people's socio-ecological tradition and a vital income source for the region, the Brazil nut has one other very special quality: It offers a great opportunity for local people to generate a monetary income while leaving the rainforest intact. All of the Brazil nuts that are consumed today in the whole world are obtained in a so called extractivist manner, meaning that they are collected from wild plants. This practice works quite well today and the forest areas where the nuts are collected are relatively intact, as the Brazil nut tree needs a healthy environment in order to be able to produce fruit. One big problem remains however: this forest-conserving income opportunity only exists for about half of the year, when the seeds are collected. The temptation for the local population is high to cut back the forest in order to establish a more permanent income source such as for example conducting agriculture or keeping cattle.
This project therefore proposes to turn the residues of the Brazil nut into a way to generate an income at times when there are no nuts to harvest. The Brazil nut grows in an elaborate, wooden fruit capsule, and the material the residues are made of could offer a viable opportunity for establishing a further extractivist income oportunity, utilizing resources already available and accessible to the people involved in local nut extractivism. The residue material has shown to have an extremely high degree of a substance called lignin. This substance acts as a natural binder in briquettes made of wooden material. The higher the lignin content, the higher the durability of the end product. In a material analysis conducted by the Energy and Nuclear Research Institute located in São Paolo, the lignin content was found to make up roughly 35% of the total shell material, while the lignin content of the fruit capsules is even higher: it makes up almost 60% (del Mastro, Nelida Lucia, Patricia Yoko Inamura, Felipe Henrique Kraide, Maria J. A. Aguirre, Marcos A. Scapin, and Esperidiana A.B. Moura (2011): Characterization of Brazil Nut Shell Fiber. Symposium Biological Materials Science. TMS Annual Meeting & Exhibition.). In comparison, the average amount of lignin in wood is only 18-30% (Pettersen Roger C. 1984. ‘The Chemical Composition of Wood’. In The Chemistry of Solid Wood, 207:57–126. Advances in Chemistry. American Chemical Society).