Pequi, A Medicinal Tree, Promoted by the Indigenous Communities of Brazil Against Monocultures

In the Alto Xingu area, 16 indigenous communties of Mato Grosso, the most deforested state by the soja monoculture agroindustry, are struggling to preserve the rainforest and their way of life, as well as protect water, land and their territories. Among the species of endemic trees with which they have been reforesting the land is the Pequi: a timber tree that is commonly used in construction, but that has also been traditionally used in natural medicinal processes, through oil extracted from its fruits.

The Kisêdje Indigenous Association (AIK), located in the Wawi territory in Xingu, has developed an alliance with other indigenous communities to try to counteract the effect of climate change in their region. Each partner is trying to find local solutions, and then transmit their experiences and share the knowledge of how to survive the voraciousness of the deforestation monoculture agroindustry.

Varieties of Pequi from Xingú, Photo: Associação Indígena Kisêdje (AIK)

Varieties of Pequi from Xingú, Photo: Associação Indígena Kisêdje (AIK)

They use Pequi oil for cooking, but also as medicine. They have achieved a very high quality of production and are successfully marketing it in and out of Brazil. Because of its high content of vitamin A and E, and its therapeutic properties, Pequi oil has been tested in high-performance Olympic athletes, in reducing stress, lowering cholesterol and regulating blood pressure, allowing for a quicker recovery. The Pequi fruit and its oil can be used for optical rehabilitation because it has shown to slow down macular degeneration. The oil can be used in the regeneration of the epidermis in wounds, as well as in the treatment of eczema and psoriasis.

The tree’s leaves are used for the treatment of asthma, influenza, and bronchial infections, as well as the regulation of menstrual flow. It is used as a fungicide to fight some skin ailments. Due to these properties and its high capacity for cell regeneration, it is used in the care of patients with HIV. It is used locally to produce natural dyes for hand-made textiles. It helps moisturizes the skin and hair, so it is used in the production of soaps and shampoos. It has anti-inflammatory properties and helps the elimination of free radicals, which could help in the prevention of cancer.

[penci_video url=”” align=”center” width=”” /] Comparing it to the African Palm tree to produce palm oil, the Pequi has helped instead in reforestation processes and soil remediation in these regions since even the pulp is used to create compost. Likewise, when trees reach their zenith of life, communities use its wood for the construction of houses, canoes, and even Pequi coal has been used in the steel industry.

The AIK recently participated in the National Indigenous Movement in Brasilia against the policies of the new federal government. They are committed to defend their traditions, their cultural heritage, and the rainforest. In contrast, the Brazilian federal government is trying to legislate an end to constitutional rights of indigenous peoples, such as the right to prior consultation and access to public health systems, thereby promoting more isolation of native communities. Regrettably, even officials who have been appointed to serve the indigenous populations of the Alto Xingú, have made racist and discriminatory comments, denounced by local communities.

Comunication Team, Associação Indígena Kisêdje (AIK). Photo: Renan-Khisedje

Comunication Team, Associação Indígena Kisêdje (AIK). Photo: Renan-Khisedje

For this reason, it is extremely important for the AIK to promote and generate environmental and economic environmental sustainability projects to recover local initiatives and create community resilience. To do this, they not only produce Paqui oil, they also empower young people and created a team of young communicators, with new technological resources for their communication projects. Not only do they have access to cameras and IT technology, but they also monitor the deforestation with several drones flying over their territory. They have also established a practical school that incorporates young people from all communities into the learning process of team management.

The Kisêdje Indigenous Association has been recognized by the United Nations Development Program as recipients of the Equator Prize 2019. The recognition emphasizes community work in the fight against climate change and alternatives to development in the production of Pequi oil. This type of recognition is essential in helping organizations develop strong positions and increase their visibility, due to their international moral weight, and can help the organization serve as a local counterweight federal measures. The award could also helps highlight controversial practices of the agro-industry in indigenous territories and could generate more pressure against monocultures.

For information on oil production: Here

FOR MORE INFORMATION: The AIK is one of 22 indigenous communities that were recognized by the UNDP with the Equator Prize 2019.