Women living in the rainforest of Colombia are creating beautiful, natural jewellery from the seeds of palm trees. The project is supported by Fundación ProAves, the Colombian conservation partner of World Land Trust (WLT).
The jewellery enterprise, Picaflor, is run by Women for Conservation, an initiative launched by Fundación ProAves in 2008.
The Picaflor jewellery is made by groups of women living near rainforest nature reserves owned and managed by Fundación ProAves. One of these women’s groups is based at El Dorado, a reserve that WLT helped extend earlier in 2015. For their raw material, the women use the seeds of ivory palms, which are sustainably harvested from the forest.
Palms in the Phytelephas genus have hard white seeds, known as tagua nuts. When dried out, the seeds take on a consistency similar to ivory. They can be dyed and carved into beads, buttons and jewellery. (The scientific name Phytelephas means ‘plant elephant’.)
The Women for Conservation initiative reflects Fundación ProAves’s commitment to work with local people. “Community engagement is one of our main aims. With local support it is much easier to achieve our conservation objectives and to reduce threats to wildlife,” said Luis Felipe Barrera Rodriguez, Director of Conservation at Fundación ProAves.
The Picaflor project is designed specifically to tackle the lack of work opportunities for women in areas around nature reserves, which is a root cause of rural poverty. Women are vital to the success of any conservation project and, given the tools and the training, women can provide for their families without exploiting the natural environment.
Luis Felipe Barrera Rodriguez
Training is provided to help women produce and sell jewellery and other natural products such as hand-made paper, leather goods, candles and soap. Training in book keeping and basic business skills is also offered.
The project is giving women an income, which improves their quality of life and the lives of their families. “In the past women in Colombia were marginalised by their communities and society in general. But now we support the empowerment of women and their ability to generate income,” said Luis Felipe.
From a conservation perspective, enabling local people to make a living by creating products from sustainable natural resources is a ‘win win’. Picaflor provides an incentive for local people to conserve the rainforest rather than to exploit it. It provides an economically viable and environmentally friendly alternative to hunting wildlife for food and illegally trapping birds and primates for the pet trade. Posing a real threat to biodiversity, these are common practices in rural Colombia.
The Picaflor range of jewellery is certified Wildlife Friendly and accredited by the British Association for Fair Trade Shops & Suppliers. Picaflor is a listed member of the Ethical Fashion Source. Items in the collection are available to buy online with free distribution in the UK.
Picaflor is offering WLT supporters a 10% discount: quote code WLT10 when placing online orders at www.picaflorcollection.com
WLT supports Fundación ProAves and the ongoing expansion of rainforest reserves in Colombia through the Buy an Acre programme. To help save more Colombian rainforest please make a donation to Buy an Acre.