Brazilian entrepreneurs supported by CEN had to look no further than Hevea brasiliensis, the rubber tree native to the Amazon, to find a renewable, marketable resource. Although there is little market for raw latex tapped from the tree's sap, several groups and individuals, including Couro Ecológico and Arimar Feitosa, have found ways to create unique handicrafts from the latex.
Stylish purses and handbags are the primary products being manufactured in Maguary. The material, called "ecological leather," is created by layering the latex extract on top of cotton. When dried in the sun, this forms a waterproof, durable material similar to animal leather. Local artisans sew this material into handbags. These handbags are a hit from São Paulo to Italy and beyond. With the success of these handbags, we are exploring and testing the market for other products, such as small animal figures.
Supporting these products supports the community. Harvesting rubber has been a traditional activity in the region for over 150 years, but the market for latex is very limited. Thanks to the innovations of local entrepreneurs, the community has been able to maintain its rubber tradition by creatively using it to manufacture sellable products. The initiatives increase local employment opportunities, sustain communities of artisans, provide higher income for seringueiros (rubber tappers), and create an incentive for youth to remain in the community, all while engaging in sustainable, environmentally friendly business practices.
CEN is actively seeking American distributors for "ecological leather" products and markets them directly at CEN events. Beyond aiding in market development, CEN is directly supporting the development of natural rubber industries in Maguary through the cCLEAR initiative. Through the project, we aim to develop marketing skills and entrepreneurship in Maguary and other Brazilian communities. This will enable these communities to continue to build sustainable industries, reduce their reliance on outside support, and maintain their traditions and lifestyle.
For more information about the various initiatives using the rubber of the Hevea brasiliensis tree, please see: