Another early morning gets us on our way to Ilha do Marajó, far to the north of Brazil in the state of Pará, where I will have a chance to meet members of a cooperative that harvests seeds, such as andiroba, murumuru and babasu. We are staying in Belém, which is the gateway to the Amazon. Although we already flew through two airports from our previous stop, we now have a 3 hour ferry ride to get to the island. I am always amazed at just how big everything is here – this is an island in the mouth of the Amazon River, which takes 3 hours to reach by ferry. And it is 50% larger than all the islands of Hawaii put together.
Once we get to the island, the ride to the cooperative is fairly short, about 30 minutes. They show me several different types of palm, as well as the greenhouse area they have built so they can help other communities with restoration on the island as well – they raise and give away their seedlings. There are huge piles of seeds drying at the coop, several tons at least. They are excited because due to having structured as a coop, they have been able to save enough money for a small machine that allows them to press oil. This in turn raises the prices they can get, but also reduces the footprint of shipping tons of seeds by boat to a refinery, so even further reduces the eco-footprint of these ingredients.
Most of the seeds I see have actually been harvested from the beach, bag by bag. We get to the beach, and up and down the beach, there are literally thousands upon thousands of seeds. The members of the coop simply walk up and down the beach with their bags, and collect – there is no need to farm, or grow or cut trees. The seeds actually float down the Amazon River and are deposited on this beach every day. The beach reminds me of a beach in Hawaii, beautiful sand and sun with a constant breeze.
On the way back to the ferry, I stop at a vendor stand and buy a bag of Cupuaçu. These fruits are large, and look kind of like footballs with round ends. As full of antioxidants as they are, these superfruits will undoubtedly make for a great breakfast tomorrow…if I can just figure out how to open it. :)
Stay tuned for the last and final day of this amazing journey! Tom