A Brazilian company called Natex has developed a way to manually harvest rubber trees deep within the Amazon rainforest. This new innovative technology not only helps curb the growing amount of deforestation, but also helps produce roughly 100 million condoms per year. These condoms are then purchased by the Brazilian federal government to be freely distributed throughout the country in an effort to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Natex opened their factory in 2008, which is located within the Chico Mendes area of the Amazon rainforest. Traditionally, locals in the area have been cutting down the rubber trees for processing, which contributes to the already high rate of deforestation from logging and illegal clearing. According to Rainforest Action Network (RAN) nearly 20 percent of the original rainforest has been destroyed, and without sustainable practices, mass destruction will only continue
Rubber trees are tapped to harvest their sap, much like maple trees are to produce syrup. Small buckets are attached to the trees to collect the liquid, which is then sent to the Natex factory to be processed and manufactured into condoms. Roughly 500,000 liters of harvested latex is collected per year.
This innovative technology also aligned with Brazil’s 2009 announcement that they would aim to reduce deforestation within the Amazon rainforest by 80 percent by the year 2020. Projects such as this have contributed to the reduction of deforestation between 2000 and 2012 by nearly 50 percent, with roughly 20,000 square kilometers per year currently destroyed, opposed to the previous average of roughly 40,000 sq/km per year.
Nearly 700 locals within the area have been hired as rubber-tappers for this project. These workers have been able to nearly double their annual income, as the factory buys all of its resources locally. It has also helped combat poverty levels by giving a sustainable alternative to proving work and incomes, which has led to many cases of poverty reduction.
Natex’s condom project tackles more issues than just environmental sustainability. Its innovation also stems from partnerships between federal and provincial governments within Brazil, the Brazilian Ministry of Health, and the National Health Foundation. Brazil is one of the largest buyers of condoms worldwide, so this project is helping to boost its own economy and help local populations gain access to safe-sex materials.
The federal government buys all of the condoms produced through Natex, and then distributes them for free throughout the country. This is done in part with their national HIV/AIDS campaigns, which have proven to be successful. According to UNAIDS, the amount of adults living with HIV/AIDS in Brazil is currently only 0.5 percent of the total population. With the innovative technology being practiced via rubber-tapping, the production and distribution of sustainably and locally produced condoms will continue to help combat the spread of HIV/AIDS.
For more information on Natex and their project, you can check out their website here.