LOOK, THIS IS THE PIT OF JATOBÁ and this is of guanandi,” said Santino Sena, a man with gnarled hands collecting native seeds that had floated to the surface in a swamp in the jungle of Canarana, a municipality of Mato Grosso in west central Brazil.
Sena, who once made a living chopping down trees, is one of 300 workers in the area paid to collect seeds of native Amazonian forest plants for reforestation. The municipality supports a nursery and brokers the sales to farmers who buy the seeds. It’s a growing market: between 2007 and 2010 the sale of forest seeds for reforestation in Brazil quadrupled.
“Before, I didn’t think twice—and now it hurts if I cut a tree,” said Sena. He owns a house, a small Fiat and a motorbike that he paid for in part with seeds. In a year, he can earn up to R$10,000 ($6,000). The seed market is now moving onto the Internet. And it’s just one arm of recent reforestation efforts in Brazil, a country that for many years had the highest rate of deforestation in the world.