Income generation and female empowerment: riverside women bet on the production of biocosmetics

Workshops promote the training of 50 women in the Middle Juruá region to generate products from local raw materials

 

On May 24 and 25, artisanal soap making and biocosmetic production workshops were held in the Novo Horizonte community, located in the Médio Juruá Extractive Reserve, in Amazonas. Valuing local raw materials, such as andiroba and açaí oils, murumuru butter and annatto, the workshops aimed to bring knowledge necessary for the production of products aimed at hygiene and well-being, such as soaps, flavoring candles, shampoos and biodegradable conditioners. The events had 50 participants, representing 21 communities distributed along the Juruá River.

With around 160 members, the Associação das Mulheres Agroextrativistas do Médio Juruá (ASMAMJ) is the implementing organization of this project, involved since the first phase of the Território Médio Juruá Program (PTMJ). The initiative has been working towards the development of new sustainable production chains for riverside women, in addition to increasing their visibility and participation in decision-making spaces at the territorial level.

By hiring a technical consultancy and logistics supported by PTMJ, the workshops were a first step towards the objective of developing a production hub for soap and natural cosmetics, bringing yet another opportunity to generate income for the region. In this way, ASMAMJ is working to continue the production and commercialization of natural cosmetics from nine products taught during the two days of the workshop.

local challenges  

According to Quilvilene Cunha, treasurer of ASMAMJ, the biggest challenge in Médio Juruá to carry out any activities in the communities is logistics. Due to the distance between communities, the cost of a trip can be very high. In this sense, the articulation and support of partners such as those of the PTMJ have been fundamental.

In addition to logistics, another factor that influences the production of these products is the need to adapt the processes of the production chain. In some communities, such as Novo Horizonte, the extraction of vegetable oils is not carried out. Then, the women collect the seeds and fruits and send them to another community that carries out the extraction process.

Considering all the particular factors and the isolation of these communities, the methodology developed to carry out the workshops focused on the valorization of local raw materials and the heterogeneity of the group, adapting the forms of production to the local reality and to the different levels of knowledge. This is what Karina Schulz Borges, a consultant invited to facilitate the training, explains:

“By talking to the women of ASMAMJ, I tried to adapt the methodology to a simplified format, but very culturally rich, bringing regional ingredients, such as murumuru, andiroba and agouti nut, to bring more authenticity to the products and increase the production capacity. We use elements such as tapioca gum in deodorants, cumaru to flavor candles, pitch resin in soap masses, annatto to produce lipstick, among other possibilities”.

To complement the teaching and provide access to more women, booklets and videos were also produced to help guide the development of products. 

Perspectives for the future

With the greater objective of promoting and expanding the activity, generating more income for communities, the production and sale of biocosmetics has the potential to also leverage other important benefits for women, who traditionally already represent a fundamental force in sustainable production chains.

“What was very remarkable is seeing how they were delighted with their ability to transform the raw material they have in an accessible way in the forest. This generates empowerment and improves women's self-esteem, who begin to see the possibility of producing, consuming and, at the same time, selling excellent quality biodegradable products, different from what is seen in the market”, highlights Karina.

For Quilvilene, the success of the activity represents, in addition to achieving financial autonomy, an improvement in the quality of life and new opportunities for these women. “Another factor that I consider important is the lessons learned, the exchange of experience that exists between them during each meeting. We understand that, when working on entrepreneurship, we are also contributing to female empowerment. It is an opportunity to gain knowledge and knowledge is power”, he explains.

At the end of this project, ASMAMJ intends to sell the products in the communities and in the municipality of Carauari, in addition to investing in online sales in the future, through an exclusive page. The Novo Horizonte community will be the production hub that will develop this work, which, in addition to prioritizing sustainable extractivism and raw materials from local biodiversity, offers products with natural formulas for the skin, which do not harm the environment and value, thus, local knowledge and income generation for riverside women. 

About the PTMJ

Coordinated by SITAWI, the PTMJ has as strategic partners USAID/Brazil, the Plataforma Parceiros pela Amazônia (PPA) and Natura. It also counts with the participation of the Bioversity/CIAT Alliance, ICMBio, the State Secretariat for the Environment (SEMA) and OPAN.

About ASMAMJ

The Association of Agroextractive Women of the Middle Juruá (ASMAMJ) is one of the local community organizations that participate in the Middle Juruá Territory Program (PTMJ) as an implementer of actions, along with ASPROC, AMECSARA, AMARU, CODAEMJ and ASPODEX. 

ASMAMJ is composed of riverside women who live in the RESEX of Médio Juruá, RDS Uacari and in the area surrounding these Conservation Units.