For The Planet | Meet Trafino & Forever Lung, Our Saywood For Good Planetary Pillar Partners

Corozo nut collector gathers the corozo fallen from the Tagua Palm in the Ecuador Rainforests

Corozo nut collector gathers the harvest from the Tagua Palm in Ecuador

I was overwhelmed by the number of projects going on to restore the natural environments and habitats around the globe when I was researching projects for the planetary pillar of the Saywood For Good initiative. This is good news.

But I really wanted the planetary pillar to be an initiative I could personally connect with, and that really spoke to the essence of the brand. And, like a lightbulb (LED of course!), a thought came to me. I got in touch with Ignacio, the CEO of Trafino. 

What is Trafino I hear you wonder. Trafino is, literally, corozo, and the company Trafino is one of the main suppliers, collectors and distributors of corozo nut blanks for buttons, founded in 1988 in South America, Ecuador.

People are sorting through the corozo blanks cut in preparation to make buttons. There are 3 buckets for sorting.

Corozo blanks being sorted for use for buttons

Saywood uses buttons made from corozo – a nut from the tagua palm that’s native to South America – as it’s a more sustainable choice. They have a beautiful natural creamy colour with a subtle wavy texture running through. Our buttons are manufactured by Courtney & Co in the Cotswolds, who source the corozo nuts from Trafino in Ecuador. 

Trafino created the FOREVER LUNG non-profit foundation, which they set up to protect tropical forests where the nuts grow wildly and to educate local communities on how to harvest them responsibly. The protection of the Tagua Palms in the rainforests help to curb climate change, whilst contributing to the long-term future of sustainable fashion.

Who better to partner with for the first Saywood For Good planetary initiative support than Trafino & Forever Lung. Our planetary pillar is about taking responsibility for looking after our planet and not depleting it of its natural resources, of which we will be supporting by donating a portion of our revenue to Trafino & Forever Lung, and telling their story. And what I love about their initiative is that, not only does it help to rebuild and protect the Earth’s natural resources, but it supports the local communities, and with an ethical standpoint too.

Two female Tagua Palms in the rainforests of Ecuador

When I spoke with Ignacio, I was thrilled to discover that Trafino and Forever Lung had a specific project they are working on, which Saywood will be supporting.

Trafino/ Forever Lung has partnered with GIZ, a German Institution dedicated to international cooperation for sustainable development. Trafino is collaborating with one of the GIZ programs, “Sustainable Valorisation of Biodiversity in Amazonas and Coastal regions – BioValor”, organized by the GIZ Ecuador office. 

The project will be developed over 15-20 months, at a cost of $115,175.29, with GIZ supporting about $50,000, and Trafino themselves contributing a portion and raising the rest through their network and other supportive programs such as Saywood For Good.

So what will Trafino/ Forever Lung be working towards?

The Creation of a Network of Nut Collectors

Many of the communities close to the rainforests that house the tagua palms are isolated from each other and are not in an organised network. Trafino aims to bring these communities together to create a network of nut collectors that will share their ancestral knowledge and strengthen the organisation between the various communities. As well as training them in the knowledge to harvest sustainably, they aim to connect each of these community groups directly with 100 artisanal factories that manufacture corozo blanks for buttons, so that the direct exchange of corozo nuts can be implemented. Not only does this benefit both groups, it aims to cut out the middlemen who are exploiting the system by buying low from farmers and selling high to manufacturers. 

Two men shovel corozo nuts into a large bag. A house made of wood can be seen in the background.

Farmers shovel the corozo nut into bags

Sustainable Management of the Tagua Palm

These communities will be trained by Trafino and their network to learn sustainable management of corozo nuts, corozo palms and of the forests where this rich biodiverse resource grows wild. Trafino will be creating a Manual of Good Practices that will be distributed to support the new generation of nut collectors.

Tagua Palm with the corozo fruit seen in the foreground, with a farmer in the background in the rainforest

Rebuilding the Forests

Trafino will establish a permanent nursery with at least 5,000 corozo palms to be distributed to the communities so that they can regenerate their forests with this native species. Whilst the tagua palm’s rich natural regenerative resources help to protect it to a certain extent, there has still been a considerable depletion of the rainforests and the tagua palm over the years; and this native species is important to the contribution of the overall health of the much needed rainforests.

Corozo nut fruit from the Tagua Palm

Corozo nut fruit fallen from the Tagua Palm: The outer shell and fruit casing

Providing Economic Support

Whilst the corozo nut falls naturally from the tagua palm to be collected by the communities, there is still much work that comes afterwards to prepare them for use by the manufacturers. Trafino will be supplying machinery and infrastructure to several communities in the network so that they can add value to the corozo nuts they collect, by drying and peeling them in preparation for use, enabling them to sell them at better prices directly to artisans (corozo blanks manufacturers), without any intermediaries getting involved.

Corozo artisans working on the machines cutting the corozo blanks for buttons

Corozo blank being cut from the nut, close up

Above: Artisan works on the machine cutting the corozo blanks

Below: Close up of the corozo blank being cut away from the nut

The project is likely to benefit between 1,000 and 2,500 families. 30% of the participants would be women, with the project to support better gender equity.

Trafino are also members of the Hot Palm project, of whom they will have the support of from national and international universities and researchers involved in the Hot Palm project, as well as the French Institute for Research and Development. Hot Palm aims to better understand the heat-mediated pollination of the tagua palm to develop a science based approach for the sustainable management of this endangered species. The conservation of the wild pollinator populations, and ensuring their resilience, especially with the rapid rate of environmental changes due to climate change and land use changes, are vital to the sustainable management of the tagua species and the rainforests they reside in.

As well as the funds being raised towards the project, Trafino will be further supporting this with their own resources, from staff time, offices, vehicles, to materials and supplies, costing approximately $30,000. Ignacio himself will be directly involved in all the activities and is committed to making this project a huge success and an example of bioeconomy worldwide. 

Man stands in the Ecuador rainforest by a Tagua Palm holding a sign with text: 'I am Hector Plua and I collected the nuts to make your corozo buttons'

Man stands in the Ecuador rainforest, smiling, holding a sign which reads 'Alternative to plastic'

It is the people behind our brands that ultimately make what we do happen. We could not create these beautiful collections alone, without our suppliers and manufacturers, and their suppliers, manufacturers and farmers, which is why it is so important at Saywood to be able to tell their stories and to share the incredible work that they do, often behind the scenes to what we interact with as consumers.

Which is why I am so excited to be supporting Trafino and Forever Lung’s program to create a network of nut collectors and regenerating the tagua palms, directly supporting solutions for climate change, preserving forests and improving the quality of life of thousands of people from communities and artisans related to corozo in Ecuador.

Trafino are also progressing on their FAIRWILD certification for this year, a standard that seeks both fair trade and the sustainable management of wild resources.

Trafino will be keeping us updated with the project, and I am looking forward to sharing the incredible work, results and imagery of the Trafino/ Forever Lung project with you.

In the meantime, you can find out more about the Saywood For Good initiative here, and discover more about the corozo buttons Saywood uses here.

Discover more about Trafino and the Tagua Palm corozo here.

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