The Brazil Nut Effect

After six hectic days of travelling we are coming to the end of our journey.  Today we met with of CANDELA PERÚ; some people may recognise the brazil nut organisation from the video we produced last year.

Candela has been established for 23 years and mainly works with brazil nut collectors in the Madre de Dios area of Eastern Peru.  Collectors or “Casteneros” are given 40 year concessions to collect nuts and one concession can cover 800 ha.  A massive area particularly when one considers that there may only be 1 tree per hectare.  Collectors can carry their nuts for three days to get to the nearest collection point.  The collection season is also very short at 3 months so the life of the collector is extremely difficult.  30% of the collectors have no other form of income.

The aim of Candela is to work with these grass roots communities providing river transport, establishing committees, providing food, training and with the help of a Shared Interest lending facility, they offer their 300 Casteneros much needed credit.  The nuts are brought to the CANDELA factory in Puerto Maldonado where they are shelled and dried before being transported by truck to Lima. Here the nuts are dried further, sorted, graded and vacuum packed for sale.

Brazil nut facts:

Brazil nut trees grow wild in the rainforest.  They can take up to 30 years to mature and can live up to 1000 years

The trees can grow up to 50m tall and 2m wide and require a specific bee to pollinate them which has made cultivation attempts largely unsuccessful.

Brazil nuts are not actually nuts. Like horse chestnuts, they are seeds contained in a capsule or pod, which splits apart. True nuts don’t split – the seed and the fruit are one and the same. 

The pods contain up to 24 nuts and can weigh up to 1KG.  These wooden capsules fall to the ground in the rainy season and are gathered by the collectors.    

A Brazil nut is 65 per cent oil. In a packet of muesli full of seeds, nuts and cereal, Brazil nuts always end up on top if you shake the packet; this is called the Brazil nut effect.


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