Deforestation accounts for about 15% of all global carbon emissions—the chief villain in the global warming saga. That 15% figure is on a par with the emissions impact of all the transportation on earth. So, as you can see, it's vital to prevent tropical rainforests from the impending threat of deforestation.
One of the best ways to prevent this is to empower the age-old guardians of the rainforest: its indigenous people.
Research shows that recognizing the rights of ancestral indigenous peoples and regions is one of the most effective deterrents to deforestation or forest degradation. In the aboriginal lands of the Amazon, deforestation is 2-3 times lower than outside recognized ancestral lands.
Part of empowering indigenous peoples to protect their lands is providing opportunities for work that pays living wages. Heartbreakingly, many indigenous people turn to unsustainable resource extraction, such as oil or timber, because they don’t have many economic alternatives. Yet the resource-rich rainforest can provide a multitude of opportunities for skilled indigenous artisans.
Providing reliable, fair-trade work opportunities for indigenous artisans is one of the pillars of OMA’s mission. OMA is a social enterprise that creates opportunities for indigenous artisans to use their natural craft and local, sustainable materials to earn a living. As they receive fair wages doing work that respects their land, the artisans are better equipped to keep their section of the rainforest intact.
In the Ecuadorian Amazon, artisans have found a way out of poverty by using self-regenerating natural resources to create handicrafts. Artisans create products such as bowls, jewelry, clothes, and animal-shaped toys. These products are made of plants and other natural resources and sold either to tourists or online.
A key regenerating resource: the chambira palm
One of the primary resources indigenous artisans use to create handicrafts is the chambira (cham-BEE-ruh) palm (Astrocaryum jauari). This large, spiny tree is native to the Amazon tropical forest.
Chambira is the strong natural palm fiber that OMA artisans use for the string in our bracelets. Other products that can be made from tender chambira shoots are baskets, belts, macramé, necklaces, fishing nets, hammocks, and fashionable shigra bags.
Using the chambira palm without proper reforestation has caused the depletion of this resource. OMA provides artisans with tools and training to reforest areas with chambira seeds to make sure chambira palms continue to thrive and support the local economy. By using chambira now while planting for the future, artisans can continue to earn needed income while ensuring that the source of that income will sustain future generations.
Another remarkable rainforest resource: tagua nuts
In addition to chambira fiber, the 100% biodegradable OMA bracelet is made with tagua nuts. Tagua (tah-gwa) nuts are the dried seedpod of the tagua palm tree (Phytelephas macrocarpa). The trees are native to South American rainforests. Since the nuts resemble elephant ivory in look and feel, they’re often referred to as “palm ivory" or "vegetable ivory." By the way, mature nuts aren't edible--they're 100% cellulose.
Thanks to its smooth, elegant appearance and texture, tagua is often used to produce beads, buttons, jewelry, and trinkets. Because of its striking similarity to animal ivory, tagua is commonly used to create historical replicas of elephant ivory artifacts.
Collecting tagua nuts causes no trauma at all to the trees. Locals simply gather tagua nuts from the rainforest floor. The nuts fall naturally to the ground or with a little help from the friendly local fauna. Using tagua is rainforest-friendly. It also helps save animals that are poached for their ivory, such as elephants and walruses.
Each year, one tagua palm produces 15-20 kilograms of nuts. That's as much "vegetable ivory" as an average female African elephant produces in her lifetime.
So not only is using tagua friendly to the rainforest, but it helps combat ivory poaching, thereby saving elephants, walruses, and other ivory-bearing animals.
The tagua nut is also part of indigenous Amazonian lore. Indigenous people credit the tagua nut with bringing about prosperity, happiness, love, and abundance. Wherever tagua palms grow, indigenous people use them to promote emotional and spiritual health and well-being. To them, tagua is sacred.
The missing link: channeling more profits to artisans
Ecuador has a wide variety of locally produced and crafted goods to share with the world. It has more local bounty available for export than a country with ten times its size and population.
It’s not that Ecuador hasn’t been offering sustainably-made products for sale until the 2020s. The problem has been that middlemen keep most of the profits from the handicrafts.
Lacking the ability to get their goods into the hands of overseas customers, indigenous Ecuadorian artisans have had to pocket meager earnings from their crafts. However, artisans can now access global markets through the internet. Programs like OMA's also help artisans achieve steady fair-trade profits.
The OMA buy-a-bracelet program shares a beautifully handcrafted product made from sustainably-produced rainforest materials. At the same time, it funnels profits back into the hands of artisans and the environment that yielded the raw materials.
Buy a bracelet and help stop deforestation on multiple levels
As you can see, indigenous people can profit from the rainforest without cutting down trees or fouling the environment through oil extraction. But indigenous people need our help to sustainably use their resources and get paid fairly for their work.
When you buy an OMA bracelet, you support indigenous artisans with reliable, fairly compensated work using renewable resources. Those artisans then have the means to protect their forest homelands and keep them safe from deforestation.
But an OMA bracelet is the gift that keeps giving. The purchase of one bracelet funds the protection of ONE WHOLE ACRE of endangered rainforest. We empower the locals to protect the area indefinitely through jobs and education.
Your bracelet purchase funds our triple impact model, one acre protected, one tree planted, and one fair-trade job created.
Deforestation, global warming, and indigenous empowerment are complex issues that need to be addressed on several fronts. However, one place to start is through purchasing an OMA bracelet. Click here to buy a bracelet and join us on the mission to #saveoma!