The idea to bring baru to Australia began with Anna’s cravings for her new favourite nut...
Anna first tasted baru nuts in 2014 while living in Brazil with Ricardo, her husband and now co-founder of The Baru Project. Ricardo grew up in the region of Brazil where baru trees grow wildly – the Cerrado – a very special place that deserves its own section (coming below). Anna grew up in Tasmania, Australia – and they met while travelling in 2013.
In December 2017 Anna and Ricardo began spending a lot of time researching baru and all things related – learning about the complexity and richness of the baru universe...
There were three things we, Anna and Ricardo, learnt early on that elevated the 'simple' idea to bring baru to Australia into the project it is now:
_ Baru is an incredibly nutritious food
_ Baru is a key plant essential to the preservation and restoration of the Cerrado biome
_ Baru has the potential to have a positive impact on the lives of many underprivileged rural workers who call the Cerrado home
With these realisations we became determined to share baru and its goodness with Australia. And making this possible, Thiago, passionate about the Cerrado and one of Ricardo’s closest friends, (with a twinkle in his eyes) became our third co-founder.
Thiago lives in Brasilia, Brazil’s capital city, that lies at the centre of the immense Cerrado. Seven years ago he made a life-changing decision; alongside his corporate career, he began to learn and practice Agroforestry and Syntropic Farming – another special subject that we’ll talk more about soon.
Our first big decision together was to form a cooperative in Brazil – The Baru Project Co-op. An initiative to bring local people together with a mission of:
_ Harvesting baru following indigenous tradition
_ Preserving and restoring the Cerrado ecosystem
_ Improving their own lives
The Baru Project Co-op was founded in collaboration with Pedrinho and his family – a local rural worker who helped Thiago begin his food forest 7 years ago.
Pedrinho is an energetic and positive person who carries a deep knowledge of ancient Agronomy and the Cerrado region. One of the most important lessons we have learnt from him is to follow the indigenous way of harvesting baru, including leaving one third of each tree's fruit to feed wildlife and promote the natural cycles of nature.
And so this was how the Project was born – and naturally, our name became The Baru Project.
The Brazilian Cerrado region covers an area larger than UK, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal combined, and like its famous sibling, the Amazon, it is one of the most important biomes on our planet. However, unlike the Amazon, the Cerrado does not receive the attention and care it deserves.
Today, half of its original vegetation is already gone and less than 3% of its area is protected. The majority of the Cerrado is privately owned and predominantly in the hands of large rural producers, most of whom use non-ecological management methods, which has led to the region being included on the IUCN biodiversity hotspot list as one of the most threatened regions on Earth.
The Cerrado is one of the most important ecosystems of our planet. It is considered the cradle of Brazil’s freshwater resources, supplying three gigantic aquifers and six of the eight largest watersheds in Brazil, making it vital to water conservation.
It is also home to 2,373 different species of animals – including the Toucan, that we chose in our branding to represent Cerrado’s fauna. Sadly, much of the Cerrado’s fauna and flora are threatened and in real danger of extinction.
Preserving and restoring the Cerrado
We are working to help reverse the environmental damage caused by monoculture and meat production in the Cerrado.
The baru industry is giving economic value to baru trees, providing an incentive to leave wild baru trees standing, but we didn’t want to stop there. We are continually researching how we can best support the ecosystem, including natural germination. One of the ways we do this is by harvesting only approximately two thirds of each baru tree’s harvest. This is important as the baru fruit is eaten by many animals and this in turn helps seeds germinate. Animals feed on the fruit and leave the seed ready to sprout.
Led by Thiago in Brazil, we are also planting food forests on barren land; and baru trees, with their deep roots, are a key species needed in their creation. The first food forest Thiago created was on his own property, and in a few years we expect it will give the first harvest of baru. We are now also beginning a much larger food forest project – partnering with cattle farmers, combining land restoration with food production for their cattle. In exchange, The Baru Project Co-op forages for baru nuts from wild baru trees on their property.
In summary, we will generate areas of forest on cattle farms that will:
_ Provide food for cattle, reducing significant costs to the farmer and providing better quality of life and more nutritious food for cattle
_ Generate many food harvests, including baru, that the farmer can, if they choose, sell
_ Help recover the Cerrado's biome
To create food forests we are using the Syntropic Farming methodology developed by Ernst Götsch. Thiago dedicated many years to studying the method with Ernst and now leads this part of The Baru Project in collaboration with our co-op members in Brazil.
'Ernst Götsch is a Swiss farmer and researcher with more than 40 years of experience and achievements in the field of sustainable agriculture. Throughout his life, Götsch has developed techniques that reconcile agricultural production with landscape regeneration. The set of principles and techniques he developed has become globally known as Syntropic Farming, and its practical application is evident on Ernst's farm (Bahia, Brazil), with the recomposition of 410 hectares of degraded lands, the resurgence of 14 springs and the reappearance of species of native fauna.'
Life in Syntropy, a small documentary based on his work, shows what was barren land in 1984 is now a lush food forest, with even the weather in the area having been positively affected.
One of the species fundamental to the restoration of the land is the baru tree because of its very deep roots that stabilise the soil and are excellent at hydraulic redistribution: their roots extracting water from the wetter layers of the soil and depositing it in the drier layers. In this way, plants with shorter roots have access to water they would not otherwise be able to reach. Cerrado’s Indigenous people say the plant's roots “talk” to each other, intertwining themselves, sharing nutrients and even reactions to external agents, such as lack of rain and pests.
With The Baru Project, we hope to show the power of nature, by demonstrating that food production and even animal farming can be optimised in natural habitats and that economic, environmental and social value cannot only co-exist but can also thrive.
We are truly excited to be helping preserve and restore the Cerrado's natural biome while generating new sources of income for the region and working with our cooperative to protect the rights of local rural workers.
Anna, Ricardo and Thiago.