Sustainability of Green Markets in Rain Forest Based Enterprises: A Partnership between Aveda Corporation and Yawanawá Community in Acre, Brazil
Community based rainforest enterprises generally rely on the participation of a commercial partner that invests their business expertise, their markets and time to develop capacity of a local community. These partnerships could be a substantial boost for the community’s economy, culture and income. However, when the local community is not socially and politically properly organized, the involvement with a third party might threaten social cohesion causing internal divisions and conflict (Morsello, 2005). This paper will discuss how the partnership between the Yawanawá indigenous people and the American cosmetics company Aveda, based in Minnesota came to be, its successes and failures and the role it played in strengthening indigenous rights for the Yawanawá community in the Brazilian amazon. In order to analyze these concepts, a brief background of the Yawanawá population in respect to changes in their land tenure over time will be provided, as well as what administrative arrangements make this partnership be considered as a successful initiative. The Aveda-Yawanawá initiative will be portrayed as an example of a short term project addressing long term structural issues that concern communities basic rights of entitlement to land, political recognition, cultural integrity and autonomy. Difficulties regarding mismatching of interest within the community when it comes to benefit distribution will be analyzed as a weakness of the partnership.
The Yawanawá indigenous people live in their ancestral lands in the head of the Gregorio River in the municipality of Taraucá State of Acre,  (Nahoum, 2013, pg.93) northwestern Brazil. Similarly to other indigenous peoples in the Brazilian amazon, the Yawanawá people depend on the river to communicate with each other and reach markets to commercialize products. Although they live in a remote location, they are not isolated. The caboclo community in the state of Amapá, northeastern Brazil, are similar to the Yawanawá as they also depend on the river flood plain for resources: flooding and draining patterns and the monsoon cycle of rains make the land they live in very fertile. The caboclos however, live in the other side of the Amazon, along the Amazon estuary where the river meets the Atlantic Ocean (Menzies, 2007, pg.55). 
The Yawanawá possess customary and usufruct rights to the land. However, initially, their rights were not backed up legally, and as a result they have been disrespected several times and their territory subject to many claims. There have been several commercial interest to the Yawanawá territory. Until mid 1970’s, rubber patrons appropriated their land and forced locals to work as slaves and rubber tappers in their own land. Later, Brazilian missionaries arrived to their land with the purpose of “evangelizing” the community, and imposing western culture over their traditions and artistic expressions. Although traditionally, the Yawanawá community used to life in separate villages along the Gregorio River basin, incoming companies forced them to abandon their lands and the territory they have been occupying for hundreds of years. This disruption lead to a detachment of the Yawanawá from their traditional way of life, their cultural rituals, artistic expressions and sense of place. In 1974, property rights were granted to the Paranaense Company for Cattle and Industrial Colonization (PARANACRE), who bought several land holdings along the Gregorio River and even in their traditional land, locals couldn’t hunt or sell rubber without PARANACRE’s authorization (Povo Yawanawá, 2016). All these changes in land ownership led to loss in indigenous traditional livelihoods and cultural expressions.
It was not until the Brazilian Constitution of 1977, that the Indigenous Land of Rio Gregorio was recognized and delimited by the federal government (Nahoum, 2013). In Brazil, it is the legislative arm of the government, composed by the congress and senate, the one that can make laws at a statutory level. However, the recognition of their land was done with the wrong perimeters: sacred sites and culturally important burial grounds were not included, and their usufruct rights continued to be ignored  (United Nations Development Programme, 2016). In 2002, they lost sacred territory as a result of the construction of the BR-364 road, a highway that passes through the northern part of their territories and connects amazon states together. The recognition of their lands, although done in the wrong grounds, was important: the Yawanawá used it to negotiate PARANACRE out of their land through dialogue amongst their chiefs and the help from the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI). In this case, FUNAI acted as an intermediary local organization for community goals to reach government.
The exclusion of PARANACRE from their lands gave the Yawanawá community more power in lobbying for their rights. We have to keep in mind that their territories were still demarcated with the wrong perimeters. As a result of this, the Yawanawá decided to advocate for a revision and expansion of their recognized land. In 2003, an association formed by the Sociocultural Yawanawá Association (ASCY), went to Brasilia with a petition requesting the revision of their territory limits to the Ministry of Justice and FUNAI. The petition, signed by the majority of the state congress and senate, led to anthropologists from FUNAI to start a limit revision study. The demarcation was concluded in 2006 and their territory was doubled (Povo Yawanawá, 2016, pg.54). It is worth noting that partnering up with third parties like FUNAI helped the Yawanawá amplify their voice in claiming back their ancestral lands, something that they would’ve struggled to do by themselves. FUNAI acted on behalf of the community to put pressure on the government to revise and expand their territory. The help of third parties is often very important in community initiatives, as they might lack the power to make their voices heard in a higher level of power.
The Yawanawá people affirm their rights to their land based on long established custom and traditional occupation. It is important to note that the bio political reality of the Yawanawá changed before and after their territory was recognized by the federal government. At the beginning, people didn’t have secured title to their lands which meant they could be expulsed from their territory or forced to change their traditions. The relationship with their land had been customarily defined until 1970, where their land was finally legally defined in the Brazilian Constitution  . The constitution recognized lands traditionally occupied by Indians. Within them communities were “entitled to exclusive usufruct and possession rights of the land for their traditional people” and that land was meant “for the preservation of environmental resources necessary for their well-being and those necessary for their physical and cultural reproduction, according to people’s uses, customs and tradition” this land was defined to be “inalienable and nontransferable” (Brazilian Constitution, 1970, Art 231).
When communal rights were recognized at the highest level of the state, it legitimized community management of forest resources. This is important because it secures rights of local people, they are harder to change if the government changes in the future. A similar case can be seen with the local communities in the Jozani National Park in Tanzania. Here, an agreement for co-management between the local Village Conservation Committees (VCCs) and the Department of Commercial Crops Fruits and Forest (DCCFF) had to be gazetted and recognized by the highest level of State in bylaws to give it legal standing. After this, the VCC were finally integrated in the local administration of the park. The agreement gave the community rights to the revenue share from tourism and compensation from crop damage. Like in Jozani National Park in Tanzania, community rights in the Yawanawá community are statutory. The fact that community rights are statutory, makes them more secure in the case that a new government arrives, they are harder to change and erase because they are written in law.
Before higher levels of government recognized their rights to forests, the Yawanawá’s rights had been disrespected several times and their territory to many claims. As discussed earlier, claims to their land came from the logging company PARANACRE, by rubber patrons and by Brazilian missionaries. In all of these situations, rights to access and use the land were sabotaged from indigenous people to outsiders. It was not until 1970 where their territory was recognized by the federal government, that they could expropriate PARANACRE out of their land and gain more decision making power to eventually negotiate the expansion of their territory. In order to do this, the Yawanawa´s had to reach out to the legislative branch of the federal government composed of the congress and the senate (Nahoum, 2013). This shows that although communities might have a customary rights to their land, in order to make their rights respected they need to reach out to higher levels of power. In reality, the Yawanawá live embedded in a hierarchy of power at the state and federal level. After the revision and expansion of their territory which finalized in 2006, the Yawanawás now hold clear titles to land, which gives them secure forest tenure and help them pursue commercial enterprises. For example, the formation of the Sociocultural Yawanawá Association (ASCY) was only possible after their indigenous land claims had been solved.
At the time when the Yawanawás were claiming for their rights, other indigenous groups around Brazil were exerting pressure in the government as well. This led to a forest devolution movement in the country during the 1980´s. As a result of this, from the entire Amazon area 1/5 was designated as indigenous land, 4% allocated to Extractive Reserves, 4% to protected areas and 6% to informal common property (Morsello, 2005, p.491). The Indigenous Land of Rio Gregorio is located within that 1/5 of the indigenous land portion. Parallel to the movement of forest devolution in Brazil, there was also a period of decentralization in government federal and administrative duties (Morsello, 2007). This shrinking role of the government meant its actions over indigenous areas were significantly reduced, facilitating large private corporations taking over commercial initiatives and community based partnerships in the Amazon rainforest, with little state intervention. The Aveda- Baixa project was one of them. In short, strong community land rights after the demarcation of their territories gave the community more power and recognition at the national level which also helped forming the partnership with Aveda.
The Aveda-Baixa project was established when the community needed an alternative source of income. After the rubber trading collapse in 1992, the Yawanawá lost their main source of income, many jobs were lost and people started to out migrate to local cities in search for better opportunities (Nahoum, 2013). The Aveda-Baixa project reversed this trend to strengthen the community’s economy. The project also united the community in one village: Nova Esperanza, where most of the community moved in as a result of it. The project was conceived in 1993 during the Paris COP 21 meeting. It was Aveda that showed interest for commercializing with the Yawanawá community the production of annatto seeds, which contain bixin, a red-orange pigment that the Yawanawá had used historically to paint their bodies, and now Aveda wanted to use in their cosmetics. Aveda’s president and the Yawanawá chief sat down to talk the terms of the project, which allowed a fairer negotiation between the two parties. It was agreed that the project would be administered by the Organization of Agriculturalists and Extractivists Yawanawá in Gregorio River (OAEYRG), an autonomus association, with support from two other local associations: the Agroextractive Cooperative Yawanawá (COOPYAWA) and the Sociocultural Yawanawá Association (ASCY)  (Dutfield & Posey, 2017, p.56). Being put together and administered by community associations, the Aveda-Baixa project is an example of a bottom-up initiative supportive of the local community and inclusive in decision making.
This is evidenced in the objectives of the project. The main objective is to strengthen the activities that the community has been doing traditionally without disturbing the daily life of people. To make this objective possible, three contracts were signed: one for the production of annatto seeds, another for the rights to use images of Yawanawá to market their brand and another one for the creation of social projects (United Nations Development Programme, 2016). Aveda would be in charge of contributing financially and provide technical infrastructure at the village. It would also avoid interfering in local affairs and leave it to the Yawanawá association to plan the commercial activities.
The partnership consists in the cultivation of Bixa Orellana trees in the Yawanawá community and the extraction of annatto seeds from its fruits. Processing of the seeds to obtain Bixin would be done in a processing facility in Sao Paulo and the manufacturing of the dye for cosmetics would be done by Aveda’s manufacturing plant in North America. Besides from Bixa Orellana, Aveda promoted the plantation of other trees for different uses, such as peach-palm, guaraná and Bralizian nut trees. The Yawanawá could sell these other products to different consumers in the market. Since the subsistence activities are seasonal and abundance and scarcity alternate, diversifying their portfolio of species reduces their dependency on just one product and helps secure income from selling different products at different times of the year. This system resembles the caboclo community in Mazagao, northeastern Brazil, who base their economy on a variety of timber and Non Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) (Menzies, 2007, p.54). Within their farm holdings, caboclo households would cultivate NTFPs such as fruit trees like açai and pineapple, and on top of that they would do farming and animal domestication. If not enough of a given product is produced for market sale, there were other products they could rely on. This is important in building community resilience that could adapt in changing circumstances and not heavily rely on the product of a partnership, but has a market built by themselves.
The bixa-orellana plantations are carried out in areas around the houses (Morsello, 2005, p.490). I believe this is important as it promotes social cohesion and helps gather people to work together. As mentioned before, although annatto seeds have traditionally grown within the Yawanawá tribe (who harvest its pigments for use in rituals), when they were enslaved by the rubber tappers, the Yawanawás lost most of the cultural use of annatto. With the partnership, they are recovering it. Working together is now an excuse for people to become culturally attached to annatto seeds and its pigments cultural use again. Based on my research, I believe the project is supportive of the community economically and socially. Examples of this are that Aveda purchases the Bixa seeds at 2.5 times the market price and pays for each Yawanawá image that they use in their merchandise (Morsello, 2005, p.489). They also made several donations of a solar panel and created a health clinic. Both the payment for image rights and for annatto seeds brings revenue to the village.
As mentioned above, the project was put together and is administered by the community associations. Initially, it was managed just by the cooperative COOPYAWA. However, due to an internal division of the population in 2008 among those who supported the project and those who didn’t, there was a creation of the association ASCY and nowadays, the management authority of the project is distributed among these two associations. Having two organization means there are two group of actors competing for resources who should work towards maintaining harmony as a community in order to reach agreements.
The Yawanawás have a traditional organization composed by a chief and a council of elders, doctors and tribe warriors (Povo Yawanawá, 2016). They are organized in villages, each one with a chief. The chief is not elected, but comes from a hereditary lineage of chief leaders. The term traditional organization implies they are not materialized into a legal entity. However, similar to the caboclos in Mazagao, they have a system of self-organization into associations. There are two associations that represent the Yawanawa: COOPYAWA, which represents the Nova Esperanza village and helps selling and commercializing Yawanawá products and ASCY, which represents the remaining villages and has the objective of strengthening culture and look for opportunities to improve the economy. Governance is expressed by the involvement of user groups in decision making. All resource users are included in the associations, and decisions are made in a more participatory way, where user groups can speak up and be heard. It is worth noting that in commercial agreements like this, households on their own are at the mercy of the market, but when they get together in community associations they can get more power, for example, to set the price of the products they are selling. In the case of the product sold to Aveda, the market price is determined with more influence of the private company, but for the other products like the fruit trees and the Brazilian nuts, community associations can act as price setters.
When it comes to negotiation with outside partners, the village chiefs are the ones that know the terms of the agreements, meet with Aveda’s representatives and report back to the community. In a sense, they get a higher power as it is their signature the one that goes in the contracts. However, this differential power balances out in community meetings, where agreements are reported back in a way that all the Yawanawá community knows what decisions are being made. Aveda and the Yawanawá community have massive cultural differences and ways to relate and value nature. The project tackles these differences efficiently by setting regular meetings where Aveda representatives and the community interact and facilitate exchange of information (De Carlo & Drummond, 1998). The rules to ensure sustainability of the cultivation of Bixa Orellana are customary, and are agreed upon in community meetings among the local villages. Aveda interferes the minimum amount when it comes to tree planting and seed collection.
Affected Stakeholders are the ones who's livelihoods are directly affected by a change in the project.
|AFFECTED STAKEHOLDERS||MAIN RELEVANT OBJECTIVE||RELATIVE POWER|
|Individual households||Practice their livelihoods and at the same time they obtain social benefits.
Cultivate the Bixa Orellana trees on their plot.
They participate in the community associations. They are subject to the effects of activities in their customarily-claimed forest area.
Chiefs of the organizations
|Represent the interests of the Yawanawá community by negotiating with external companies.||HIGH
Only members that take part in negotiations with Aveda and know the terms of the agreement
|Organization of Agriculturalists and Extractivists Yawanawá in Gregorio River
|Represents community’s interests nationally and internationally to obtain resources.||HIGH
All the members of the community belong to it and can speak up in meetings.
|Sociocultural Yawanawá Association
|Strengthening the culture and look for opportunities to improve the economy.||MEDIUM
All the members of the community belong to it and can speak up in meetings.
|Agroextractive Cooperative Yawanawá
|Helps selling and commercializing Yawanawá products in and outside the village.||MEDIUM
All the members of the community belong to it and can speak up in meetings.
Interested stakeholders are those who are interested in the community for any particular reason, and given a change in the partnership, their livelihoods won´t be directly affected because they don´t depend on the project for their subsistence.
|INTERESTED STAKEHOLDERS||MAIN RELEVANT OBJECTIVE||RELATIVE POWER|
|Aveda Corporation Inc.||Interested in improving its image and trademark by commercializing a product from socio-environmental sensible sources.
Buy product grown in an ecologically sustainable way and produce highly differentiated cosmetics.
Must approve expenditure reports from association before providing funds. Aveda is used to deal with small farmers. It has around 10 partnerships with indigenous communities around the world. It won’t be directly affected if Aveda-Baixa project fails  (Edgar & Naughton, 2007, p.1).
|National Indian Foundation
|Intermediary. Acted on behalf of the Yawanawá community to pressure in the Brazilian government to demarcate their territories.||MEDIUM
Acts as an intermediary for community goals to reach government.
|State of Acre||Has been benefited by the incoming tourism that the Yawanawá attracts with help of the partnership.||LOW
State doesn´t get that involved in the partnership
|Legislative Branch of the Brazilian government (senate and congress)||Part of the government that can make new laws or change the existing ones.||HIGH
Signed and authorized the petition of the Yawanawá to revise and expand their territory in 2006. Which strengthened their culture and rights.
|Buyers of Aveda Cosmetics||Purchase eco-friendly products.||LOW
They drive the demand for the production of eco-friendly cosmetics. Their livelihoods are not affected by a failure in the partnership.
Strong community land rights have made of this a successful partnership, despite the conflicts caused by the internal structure of power and the misdistribution of resources in the early stages. The community shows great leadership and capacity to form alliances with outsiders. I believe their most essential gain is how they managed to retain their land to use it for subsistence, while still engaging in exchange with Aveda and obtaining modern objects. Perhaps one of the most important contribution of the partnership with Aveda might not be economical, but the increased awareness of their culture and self-worth as an indigenous group which granted them respect in the region and gave them negotiating power to fight for a revision of the limits of their territory. What is worthy of notice form the Yawanawá community is that further from the economic incentives from harvesting these goods, what truly motivates these people to be involved in the partnership are the initiatives that empower them to manage their resources using their own rules. This includes their power to claim and demarcate their territory and having secure land use rights.
Another factor that makes the Aveda-Baixa partnership so successful has to do with the organizational structure of the Yawanawá community. The Yawanawa´s are organized in autonomous and legally recognized associations that gave them a voice as to how resources were to be accessed and used  (Anonymus, 2011). The community is organized in such a way that it gives its members continuing voice in decisions and provides incentives to continue involved in the initiative, feeling proud of their work. Despite misunderstandings at the beginning. The Yawanawá illustrates the importance for communities to be effectively organized when setting out trade agreements with corporations, in order to keep the power of decision making. During my research I came across cases of communities which trade agreement relationship was majorly dominated by the corporations due to the lack of local organization, however, this was not the case for the Yawanawá.
After the foundation of the partnership the Yawanawá gained significant government recognition. The State of Acre started providing several benefits for the community like public services like electric generators, internet and compensation for tourism that the Yawanawá culture attracts to the state  (Mcclatchy & Preethi, 2012). The income generated by the project is returning to the community in form of healthcare and education goods. Funds from Aveda were invested in building a school and a health center in the village where local people are trained as teachers and elders teach traditional practices to the new generation of kids  (Tucker, 2016, pg.1). In this sense, the Aveda- Yawanawá project shows us an example of a short-term project that addresses long term structural issues that concern communities basic rights of entitlement to land, political recognition, cultural integrity and autonomy. It has shown the resilience to adapt to changing markets and future possible changes in government policy regarding rights and access to forest lands. All of this is possible thanks to the willingness of Aveda to collaborate with the local community and help them strengthen their rights and traditions. I believe this partnership has proven to adapt to changing conditions and has a high chance to be sustainable in the future because it has not only concentrated in expanding its size quantitatively but also expanding in political and social circles of local communities, making it possible to influence the national scale.
There were two reasons for the internal division in 2008 which are due to a lack of good governance and the mismanagement of resources by the leaders and their organizations. In one hand, leaders were making alliances that kept the community economically alive but while they did this they used their power to control the resources in a centralized way for political purposes. The resources and donations from Aveda began to be concentrated among the political leaders and their inner circle of allies (Nahoum, 2013).
In the other hand, there was a mismatch of expectations from the households working for the community associations. As mentioned in the “Administrative Arrangements” headline of the paper, local Yawanawá families are incorporated into governance through their participation in the ASCY and COOPYAWA, the associations managing the partnership. One disadvantage of incorporating families into governance is the issue of compensation for time devoted to “community work”. Although at the beginning of the project there were enough resources to distribute amongst all of the community, as the project advanced, production needs became harder to meet, goods became more scarce and people started to claim their share. In return for their work and participation in the partnership, the community expected to be given individual economic profit, but benefits were distributed just in form of public goods, not profit. This caused people to feel they were not properly compensated and loose faith in the partnership. Given this division of interests, the part of the population that rejected the project remained in Nova Esperanza, while the rest of the population supporting the project moved to settle in the other five villages, and as a result a new contract was signed with Aveda in 2003. Nowadays, the population is separated in different villages but the project still remains under the management of both organizations.
Over dependency in Aveda, and especially in the annatto seed product could be a significant problem for the Yawanawá community. At the beginning of the partnership, when Yawanawá didn’t have much alliances with outside corporations, economic dependency in Aveda was much higher. Before the large scale production was established, Aveda had exclusive rights to trade with the community (Dutfield & Posey, 2017). But after 23 years of partnership, Yawanwá community has developed partnership with other corporations, centered in extraction of other products  (Povo Yawanawá, 2016). Although the partnership accounts for a big portion of their income, they have expanded their portfolio of activities, and species and are not completely dependent in Aveda. Also, the agreement is non-exclusive, the Yawanawá sees Aveda as one more buyer and is selling their seeds to other companies.
Finally, change in market prices can represent a risk for the Yawanawá. While Aveda can reduce their risks by increasing the number of suppliers, the community has less possibilities available.
During my literature search, I was unable to find information about the most current state of the Aveda-Baixa partnership. By most current state, I mean information about how the partnership is improving the Yawanawá way of life and if it is sustainable nowadays. Most of the challenges the partnership faced, like the division of the population due to lack of interest and internal revenue conflicts, were analyzed halfway through the partnership. However, it would be interesting to know if the community overcame these obstacles, and if they did, how are they being successful.
My recommendations for this partnership initiative are:
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