Fair Trade Designs
What do fair trade jewelry, South American rainforests and African elephants have in common? The latter two are disappearing at critical rates while some fair trade jewelry is helping to restore both.
"Slash and burn" agricultural techniques are destroying rainforests, replaced by cattle ranches and banana plantations. Despite an international ban on the sale of ivory, illegal poaching of elephant tusks has brought the elephant population to near extinction.
But a palm nut, about as big as an avocado pit, is helping to alleviate in a small way both of these devastating problems. The tagua ("tah-gwah") nut is the dried seedpod of the Tagua Palm, a native of South American tropical forests. Because of its similarities to ivory, it is carved into uniquely beautiful necklaces, earrings, bracelets and more.
One Tagua Palm yields up to 50 pounds of nuts a year, about the same weight as an average elephant tusk. Because the nuts are typically harvested from the seed pods after they've fallen off the tree, the palm can continue to grow and produce year after year. The elephant can yield its tusks only once.
Harvesting natural rain forest products such as tagua can produce up to 5 times more income to indigenous South Americans than working on banana plantations and cattle ranches. As the market for fair trade "ivory" grows, more opportunities are created for workers to leave low-paying agricultural jobs for much higher-paying, eco-friendly employment.
Can a nut save the environment? In this case, the answer is yes!