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FEATURE STORY August 5, 2019

Colombian Farmers Introduce "Amazonian Gold" to the World

A program in Colombia is catalyzing partnerships between the government and private sector in the Orinoquia region to scale up sustainable business practices and to reward sustainability through payments for reducing emissions.

World Bank Group


STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • In Colombia, cultivation of the cacay fruit is introducing profitable livelihood opportunities across the Orinoquia region.
  • The potential for more stable and higher income streams from the cacay tree can also motivate farming communities to further conserve the local environment.
  • The country’s recently launched program with the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes (ISFL) is focused on promoting sustainable agricultural production like this to help reduce emissions from the land use sector.

Jhon Muñoz cuts open a green cacay fruit with his pocket knife, smiling as its three little pods drop into his soil-sodden palm. Muñoz, 41, manages a 1090-acre cacay fruit farm in Colombia’s Orinoquia region, where he makes a living with this uncommon, yet multi-purpose tree that is native to the area.

Muñoz’ previously worked an entry-level job at Kahai, a company in Villavicencio that was just starting to explore whether developing the commercial uses of the cacay nut could make for a viable business.

The cacay fruit, similar in appearance to a lime on the outside, has three segmented nuts which can be consumed after processing or made into a nutritive flour or milk. The fruit also produces an oil, dubbed ‘Amazonian gold’, which is used for cosmetic purposes. The nut’s high content of vitamin A (retinol), vitamin E and vitamin F (linoleic acid) is said to have anti-aging properties.  

Today, the company exports 3 tons of cacay oil worldwide to markets, including the United States, UK, South Korea, France, Spain, Australia, Canada and Thailand. Prices for high quality cacay oil are significant, with just 1 oz of cacay oil in the US often retailing at over $30.

“We’re the first area in the world to do it on a big scale,” says Kahai’s agricultural technician, Henry Sanchez. “We’re taking a Colombian nut from our biodiversity, from the Orinoquia and the Amazon, to the world.”

The company hopes to expand its exports in the coming few years, but they will need help to get there with regards to growing volumes, expanding their processing capacity, and securing new markets.


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Photo: Nadège Mazars/World Bank


Cracking the nut market

The potential for stable and higher income streams can also motivate farming communities to further conserve the local environment. This is exactly why Colombia is looking at how it can help scale up cacay farms such as Kahai.

The country’s recently launched program with the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes (ISFL)* is focused on promoting sustainable agricultural production to help reduce emissions from the land use sector. The program is led by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, in close coordination with the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, the National Planning Department, and Colombia’s Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies. The project is being implemented in the departments of Meta, Vichada, Casanare and Arauca in Orinoquía, and will seek to integrate sustainable production systems in strategic conservation zones.

“The biggest challenges we face are carrying out the analysis we need to prove cacay products are safe for consumption, and gaining better access to the international nut market. This is where the ISFL program could really help us get to the next level,” says Sanchez.

Colombia’s ISFL program seeks to  catalyze  partnerships between the government and private sector in the Orinoquia region to promote and scale up sustainable business practices, and to reward sustainability through payments for reducing emissions.

“The ISFL program in Orinoquia will be tapping into a growing commitment among farmers and companies here to restore degraded lands from cattle grazing, and produce in an environmentally-friendly way,” says Franka Braun, Senior Natural Resource Management Specialist and ISFL manager in Colombia. “The initiative provides an opportunity to promote a nature-based economy in the Orinoquia region, one of the remaining agricultural frontiers in the world.”

“We are very optimistic that this BioCarbon Fund work will make a critical difference to this important region by both protecting the environment, while directly assisting communities in improving their livelihoods,” adds Braun.

 

*The ISFL is a multilateral fund, supported by donor governments – Germany’s Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und nukleare Sicherheit (BMU), Norway International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI), Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), United Kingdom’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), and the United States State Department (DOS) – and managed by the World Bank.



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