Documenting the Sateré-Mawé’s way with the guaraná plant, known for its rich caffeine content

Indigenous people of the Brazilian Amazon are growing guaraná without chemical pesticides to preserve the Amazon rainforest and cultural tradition. They are hoping others will follow their example and prevent further damage to the rainforest.

The Sateré-Mawé were the first to domesticate and cultivate the the Guaraná plant, paulinia cupana, a wild vine from the Sapindaceae family, producing a cultivated shrub. They have mastered its planting and processing, allowing them to elaborate a variety of food and drink products from their crops.

Guaraná, rich in caffeine, has become a globally popular product for its properties as a stimulant, intestinal regulator, cardiovascular tonic and aphrodisiac.

Known to be richer in caffeine than coffee, guaraná has attracted the attention of international drinks companies, who now have a presence in Maues, in the Brazilian state of Amazonas, where guaraná’s produced. Indigenous groups have their own techniques for cultivating guaraná deep in the rainforest without upsetting natural ecosystems, whereas the international drinks companies grow their own guaraná, for use in their energy sodas, with lots of artificial pesticides or fertilisers.

Since 1995, fair trade initiatives have enabled the Sateré-Mawé to commercialise their traditional products such as guaraná and other goods from the forest. Although well established as an indigenous enterprise on the international market, revenues from the guaraná trade are yet to counter poverty in their villages on a large scale.

One solution to this problem has come in the form of green markets and sustainable tourism. With the help of international NGOs, the Mawé are developing a guaraná based economy that protects their heritage while fighting the poverty that increases in population and the depletion of natural resources.

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at


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