Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas
Brazil

Devastation at Amazon Coffee Co-op Profiled by AQ

Brazilian police are investigating after a plane sprayed herbicide in the area.
A Café Apuí producer checks his crop in January 2022.Courtesy: Café Apuí

Café Apuí, a small coffee cooperative profiled in 2021 by AQ as an example of sustainable development in the Amazon, has been heavily damaged after a plane sprayed herbicide over its crops. Brazilian police are investigating whether the Feb. 8 incident was an accident or an intentional attack.

Coffee leaves at co-op producers affected turned yellow following the incident, raising the prospect that the current crop will be lost, said André Luiz Vianna, technical director at Apuí’s main partner Idesam. Birds, bees and butterflies have disappeared, and fruit trees have died. The landholders also face the loss of their organic certification obtained after an eight-year process, and a long road ahead to clean soil and water sources. “We are trying to ascertain which chemicals were used, to quantify the damage,” Vianna said. 

After contact with herbicides, IDESAM experts say these plants are compromised and dying (Photo courtesy of Café Apuí)

Café Apuí is a collective of approximately 40 families who work by intercropping native trees with coffee, a method that improves soil fertility and increases productivity. Since AQ profiled the organization last year, the initiative had continued to expand, increasing revenue by 34% by December 2021 and doubling the area covered by organic and sustainably grown crops.

The Amazonas police said in a statement they are investigating the incident as an environmental crime, and trying to ascertain whether the airplane pilot sprayed the wrong area, or if the spraying was intentional to force out the co-op’s small farmers. The area is surrounded by cattle ranches and degraded pastures. Vianna is hopeful the guilty will be punished.

“The worst danger right now is impunity,” he told AQ. “It makes it that much harder to stimulate a network of sustainable practices if acts like this one are left unpunished.” 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cecilia Tornaghi is managing editor at AQ and senior director for policy at Americas Society/Council of the Americas. 

Tags: Amazon rainforest, Brazil, Sustainable development
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