Developing a Regenerative Amazon Economy

A Complex Ecosystem and Culture Context

The Amazon is one of the world’s largest and most important regions for the protection and regeneration of the global climate and water cycle, biodiversity and indigenous populations. It offers tremendous opportunities for medical cures, body care and healthy nutrition.

The Amazon is also one of the world’s most complex ecosystems and cultural contexts. Many initiatives such as the excellent multi-stakeholder coalition Uma Concertação pela Amazônia focus on conservation, reforestation and the establishment of a regenerative rule of law to stop and reverse deforestation. We support and collaborate with this and other such initiatives.

We also believe that these efforts can only be successful if the development of a regenerative Amazon economy supports its 28 million inhabitants to have better incomes from regenerating the region than from destructive farming and mining practices.

The majority of the Amazon population migrated from Brazil’s slums and poorest rural areas and now face the necessity to feed their children as micro-farmers or miners or by working for large corporations that export products like soy and beef.

Regenerative Value Creation in Action

The good news is that the sustainable collection and processing of native Amazon plants can generate much higher incomes, especially if it can be integrated into the large Brazilian and international supply chains. Other regions around the world demonstrate how this potential can be turned into concrete Regenerative Value Creation that offers local populations much better income and living conditions.

For example, our long term partners, Brazil’s Natura and The Body Shop, demonstrate how to successfully partner with Amazon communities to increase their Regenerative Value Creation by providing reliable quality and quantity for their international supply chains. Where in the past local communities would collect and sell only raw materials, such as plants, fruits and nuts, they helped local communities to establish their own processing facilities, which significantly expands their income opportunities.

Another example is the global boom of açaí, an Amazon superfood that is now at the heart of a diversified local and global economy. It has been successfully integrated into global supply chains, often in ways that are respectful of local cultures and regenerative of local ecosystems. While this industry has much more room to grow, other local industries can also develop to create sustainable jobs and economic development for local communities.

It will be, however, of crucial importance to make sure that the business practices benefit people and nature. This will require oversight by local and international governments and market participants from purchasers to investors and the economically viable use of certifications that unfortunately can be too expensive and not sufficiently attuned to local conditions to be widely used.

Global Investment in Solutions Initiatives

These new realities attract increasing attention from global corporations and investors who want to be part of the solution. One of our partners in this Solutions Initiative is the Amazon Investor Coalition, a global learning-and-collaboration platform that unites private investors, philanthropies and corporate buyers with governments, nonprofits and other allies to increase forest-friendly economic development and the rule of law across the Amazon region.

Yet while these very promising activities herald the potential for a new mainstream for the Amazon economy, we have to acknowledge that they are only a small fraction of the overall Amazon economy. To change that we need to activate much more business activity. We also need to support local populations with education and professional training at every level.

For example, managers of companies operating in the Amazon region, typically come from other Brazilian states that have very different cultures and ecosystems. These managers tend to stay only a short time in the region and leave before they can fully appreciate the Amazon’s cultural and natural richness and its economic opportunities. Therefore we also have to enable local populations to become local business leaders at all levels.

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