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Equator Initiative Case Study - Couro Vegetal da Amazônia

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Couro Vegetal da Amazônia began operating in the Brazilian state of Acre in 1996, in an attempt to improve the livelihood opportunities and wellbeing of Amazonian rubber-tapping communities. This project brought together more than 200 local and indigenous families in three forest communities, providing training in an innovative processing method to produce sheets of vulcanized rubber. This material, made of cotton fabric drenched in natural latex extracted from wild rubber trees (Hevea brasiliensis), was sold in fabric sheets to textile corporations and marketed as an alternative to leather.
The enterprise overcame the challenge of falling prices for natural rubber and took advantage of growing market demand for ecologically sound and sustainably produced fashion items. By adding value to the raw latex they harvested, participating communities benefited from higher prices for their rubber, contributing to poverty reduction and community empowerment. The Equator Initiative brings together the United Nations, governments, civil society, businesses and grassroots organizations to recognize and advance local sustainable development solutions for people, nature and resilient communities. As local and indigenous groups across the world chart a path towards sustainable development, the Equator Prize--issued biennially by the Equator Initiative--shines a spotlight on their efforts by honoring them on an international stage. This project was awarded the Equator Prize in recognition of its contribution to local sustainable development solutions.

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