The presence of the fruit in the regional diet is as old as the occupation of the forest — and its use has to do with rational fire management.
The collectors get ready to leave after packing the açaí into large bags of 28 kilos each. With the bales on their shoulders, the men leave the forest while the women organize their pots, jugs, cans, and other tools for their work. Finally, they fold the tarpaulins that were opened close to the ground for the threshing and separation of the Amazonian palm fruit.
The ribeirinhos carefully place the bags inside the boat, which will continue its journey in the next hour. The paneiros, hand-braided baskets, are loaded with a small açaí, the so-called chumbinho.
Another day comes to an end in Arraiol, a community in the Bailique archipelago, a group of eight islands in the region of the mouth of the Amazon river, 200 kilometers from Macapá. The açaí harvested will be processed by the Cooperative of Agro-Extractive Producers of Bailique, Amazonbai. It is the first community enterprise in Brazil focused on açaí to achieve the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification of forest management, chain of custody and ecosystem services procedure. The Amazonbai açaí also has a certificate of Vegan Product and the Amapá Seal, which promotes the valorization of the state's native products.
This success story in the production and commercialization of an emblematic fruit of the Amazon began to take shape in 2013, when farmers, fishermen and extractivists got together to institute the Community Protocol, which allowed the management of the operation by the residents based on the strength of the local sociocultural identity. "In Bailique, many men and women hold traditional knowledge," the residents subscribe in an excerpt from the document. These are people who have a deep knowledge of the region's plants, using the biodiversity for food and healing. "For the maintenance of such knowledge, it is necessary to have the full guarantee of the territory and natural resources," the text continues.
"I describe the forest as a place of coziness. It has given me everything I have. My relationship is one of immense affection with this place and that's why I treat it with so much respect," says Manoel Miracy dos Santos Filho, known as Miro, one of the founding partners of the cooperative, created in 2017.