The great variety of vegetal formations in Brazil favors vegetal extractivism , which consists in the collection of products not cultivated directly from nature, exploited with little technology or with rudimentary techniques and equipment.
There are several products of vegetal extraction in Brazil, which vary from region to region. Some of the most characteristic are in the North, such as latex and Brazil nuts.
Extractivism in the North Region
According to Healthvv, the most important plant extractive activity in Brazil is undoubtedly logging. It occurs since the beginning of colonization and has led to several plant formations to extinction.
The North region supplies 25% of all wood in the country. In this area, national and foreign companies operate, in addition to individual loggers. The most sought after species, slaughtered in a predatory way, are chestnut, angelim, mahogany and cedar.
The activity causes major environmental impacts in the Amazon: extinction of flora and fauna, erosion, soil compaction, reduced rainfall, etc.
Açaí is a palm tree typical of several regions of the Amazon, spreading to Maranhão, Guyana and Venezuela. It is known by the indigenous people as “içá-çai”, the “fruit that cries”. It produces a tasty heart of palm, which has been industrialized in recent years.
There are two varieties of açaí: purple and white. Its seeds are used to create necklaces, bracelets and other ornaments that are gaining more and more commercial space.
The main food extracted from açaí is a juice made from the pulp and peel of its fruits and used in the manufacture of juices and ice cream. This juice is actually a macerate with the color of grape juice and has a lot of density, is energetic and nutritious. Residents of Belém do Pará consume it with manioc flour and sugar. It is highly appreciated by the inhabitants of the region and its consumption has been spreading in other areas of the country and even abroad.
Latex is taken from rubber trees in the Amazon rainforest. From 1870 to 1920, Brazil experienced the peak of latex production for the manufacture of natural rubber . During this period, it became the world’s leading producer.
However, with competition from Southeast Asia, production declined and currently survives as the main activity in the extractive reserve areas where rubber tappers work. These were delimited from 1989 on land belonging to the Union; they are characterized as environmental preservation units and their function is to guarantee the survival of forest peoples, who see their way of life threatened by deforestation.
In addition to the rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis , the following species are known by this name: rubber, maniçoba, balata and maçaranduba. All of them occur in the floodplain forest, mainly in the states of Acre and Amazonas.
Found in upland areas, Brazil nut is one of the tallest trees in the Amazon rainforest, reaching around sixty meters.
Its fruits provide an oil widely used by the cosmetic industries. The biggest producers are Pará and Amazonas, which export 85% of their nuts. The United States is the main destination for Brazilian production.
Golden grass is a typical plant from Tocantins, found only in the alapão region. The material is used in the making of various types of crafts, such as bags, belts,
Abroad, the pieces cost 500 dollars. Before being made on a commercial scale, the handicraft was practiced by the region’s Indians and quilombolas. The Syngonanthus nitens euriocaulaceae , scientific name of golden grass, has a big challenge ahead, because it requires a controlled extraction to prevent their extinction.
Extractivism in the Midwest Region
A typical Cerrado tree , the angico has several varieties, such as angico-white, angico-red, angico-purple and angico-black. From its bark a resin rich in tannin is extracted , widely used in medicine (as an energy drink and expectorant) and in industry.
Poaia is a plant from the Cerrado whose roots have medicinal properties and is used by the pharmaceutical industry to treat dysentery, bronchitis and whooping cough.
Poaia extraction has been carried out systematically in Mato Grosso since the 19th century; in 1835, it was already part of the province’s export agenda. Part of the production was sold to São Paulo and, abroad, to North America, England and Uruguay.
Today, this species is in extinction, mainly due to the indiscriminate removal of its individuals and, secondly, to the destruction of its habitats, now replaced by agricultural activities.
The quebracho is a species from the Cerrado whose wood, of inferior quality, is used for the production of charcoal, while the bark, rich in tannin, is used for tanning the leather.
Extractivism in the Northeast Region
Babassu is a typical palm tree from Mata dos Cocais (a transitional vegetation between species from the Caatinga and the Amazon Forest ) that occurs mainly in Maranhão.
This plant extracts raw material that is used in insulating products, lubricating oils, paints, cosmetic products and palm hearts. Houses are covered with straw, baskets and toys are made. Coconuts are used as biomass for energy production. Coconut breaking is basically performed by women, the breakers.
Typical palm tree from Mata dos Cocais whose trunk is used to make fences and mats . With the fibers, cast nets for fishing are made, from its seeds an oil is extracted and from its leaves the most important product, wax, used in the production of insulators, lubricants, shellac, etc.
Palm tree found especially in Bahia, its name is of Tupi origin and means “fibrous plant”. It produces a long, resistant, waterproof and flexible fiber.
Economically, its importance is in the extraction of its fibers, used in brooms, filling cars, manufacturing ropes, covering houses, kiosks, etc. It is also used as a thermal insulator. When new, palm hearts can be removed from its bulb. From coconut it is possible to make flour and buds.