The idea to bring baru to Australia began with Anna’s cravings for her new favourite nut that she’d discovered in Brazil...
Anna first tasted baru in 2014 while living in Brazil with her husband, Ricardo. Ricardo grew up in the region of Brazil – the Cerrado – where baru trees grow wildly. Anna grew up in Tasmania, Australia, and the two met while travelling in 2013.
Beyond the 'simple' idea to ‘get baru into Australia’, there were three things that really inspired The Baru Project:
_ Baru is an incredibly nutritious food;
_ Baru is an essential plant in 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, a region that the UN has identified as a high risk area for modern-slavery.
Knowing these three things, we became determined to found a project around baru and share baru’s goodness with Australia. In 2017, Anna and Ricardo partnered with Thiago, one of Ricardo’s closest friends, who was already working on an ecosystem restoration project in the Cerrado. 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.
We are now also working with Pedrinho and his wife – a local rural worker who helped Thiago begin his first ecosystem restoration and 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 tradition of leaving one third of each tree's fruit to feed wildlife and promote the natural cycles of nature.
Our mission is to bring local people together in the Cerrado to:
_ Preserve and restore the Cerrado ecosystem by harvesting baru following indigenous traditions and syntropic farming principles;
_ Bring more meaningful and fair employment opportunities to the region;
_ Share baru’s goodness with the world.
And with this mission 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 the 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 land 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
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 better support the Cerrado’s ecosystem.
One of the ways we do this is by harvesting approximately only 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.
We are also planting regenerative baru forests in the Cerrado using the syntropic farming method, a form of agroforestry which simultaneously regenerates ecosystems; and baru trees, with their deep roots, are one of the key species needed in this process. Baru trees’ deep roots stabilise the soil and are excellent at hydraulic redistribution: their roots extract water from the wetter layers of the soil and deposit 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.
Thiago, a syntropic farming specialist, trained by the method’s founder, Swiss-German scientist Ernst Gotsch, is on the ground in Brazil leading this part of the project.
If you would like to know more about Syntropic Farming, Life in Syntropy is a great short documentary based on Ernst’s work, showing what was barren land in 1984 is now a lush food forest, with even the weather in the area having been positively affected.
With The Baru Project, we hope to show 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 sources of employment in the region that protect the rights of local rural workers.
Anna, Ricardo and Thiago.