Tapping into safe sex in the Brazilian Amazon
Cattle on cleared land near Xapuri. Protected Brazil nut trees remain, but they only produce nuts when inside the rainforest canopy.Jon Spaull
A rubber tree and a rubber tapper with his daughter in Cachoeira reserve, near Xapuri, an area made into an extractive reserve for the rubber tappers living on the land after campaigner Chico Mendes was murderedJon Spaull
A rubber tapper and nephew of Chico Mendes at his home on the reserveJon Spaull
Tapping rubber in the reserveJon Spaull
Sebastaio Mendes, another cousin of Chico Mendes, collects rubber by cutting grooves in the bark of a rubber treeJon Spaull
Natural latex flows into a cupJon Spaull
A rubber tapper carries a bag of collected Brazil nutsJon Spaull
Collecting Brazil nuts in Cachoeira reserveJon Spaull
A rubber tappers house in the reserveJon Spaull
A rubber tapper and cousin of Chico Mendes hugging the then environment minister Marina Silva at the opening of the Natex condom factory in 2008Jon Spaull
Making condoms at the factory from collected latexJon Spaull
Testing condoms for strengthJon Spaull
The factory produces more than 100 million condoms a yearJon Spaull
The government gives the condoms away to help fight HIVJon Spaull
Mendes saw rubber tappers as the natural custodians of the rainforest. He thought the best way to prevent land clearance was to improve the rights and income of those who make a living from the forest. Based on Mendes’s ideas, the state of Acre has adopted a policy known as ‘florestania’ or citizens forestry. One of Brazil’s poorest states, Acre is seeking to increase the value of products extracted from the forest.
The flagship of its programme is a condom factory opened in 2008 in Xapuri in conjunction with the federal government. The factory is the first in the world to use latex collected from wild, rather than cultivated, trees. Each year, it makes more than 100 million condoms to be given away as part of the government’s ambitious HIV programme.
The factory was opened by the then environment minister Marina Silva. Herself the daughter of impoverished rubber tappers from the region, she is a strong advocate of ‘florestania’. Silva is a candidate in Brazil’s presidential elections on 5 October and stands a strong chance of becoming the country’s first black female president.