Chonta – Ecuador (A palm tree fruit)
This project package focuses on conservation of essential traditional products from the jungle for Ecuadorian natives. Chonta (Bactris gasipaes) is one of them. Chonta is a native plant from the Amazon Rainforest of Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela. It is widely used by natives and settlers. The fruit is rich in nutrients. Previous research shows that it contains carotenoids which help to prevent some diseases and they are a good source of vitamin A. During the harvest period, Chonta is the main source of food for natives.
Applications of the fruit of Chonta
1. The boiled Chonta is a good source of energy that is consumed instead of cassava or banana.
2. It is used to make a slightly fermented cooled drink called “chicha”. This beverage is used as refreshment at home, or in community celebrations.
3. It is also used to prepare a beverage called "chucula" which is a very important food base in growing children.
4. Due the importance of this fruit, it is dried using smoke and heat for conservation. The dough obtained from the dried Chonta is also used to make “tortillas”.
5. The bark of the cooked Chonta is used for feeding poultry chickens and as a fertilizer for their crops.
6. The ripped Chonta is a source of food for many species of birds and mammals in the rainforest.
Applications of the rest of the palm
1. Birds such as buglas hang their nest from the tip of the young leaves of the thorny trunk to protect their chicks from snakes and felines.
2. When the height of the palm makes difficult to harvest the fruit (approximately 10 to 12 years of age), the tree is cut down but not chopped. It is going to be the house for the chontacuro. The chontacuro is a worm that takes approximately 2 months to eat the inner part of the palm. At this point, the worms are harvested by the native people. They usually eat them toasted and they are rich in protein, Vitamin E, and Vitamin A. Lately, these worms are being used to make cosmetic creams.
3. The wood of the palm is used to make spears and to build huts and corrals for animals.
Migration of indigenous population and the increasing deforestation of mining and oil companies, together with illegal logging, are minimizing the importance of this product because chonta needs at least 4 years for a first production. But, given all the benefits currently known about Chonta and many others that could be identified, it can be used to promote the sustainable development of the communities.
Develop new value chains based on Chonta fruit by innovating hygienic post-harvest value added products like juice, food bars,(Loughborough Centre for Food Innovation, Sussex Business School, National University of Loja, Redpill Group)
Value chain innovation
Satellite & drone data
1. Use satellite and drone data to study the location and varieties of palms available in the Ecuadorian jungles, and to locate the best reforestation places which are more accessible for the communities (Satellite Applications Catapult, Imgeospatial, Imperial, University of Moratuwa, LIPI)
2. User drone or satellite data to monitor the growth of the trees to identify variables of growth in the site, such as light interception, chlorophyll of the leaf, and opening and closing of stomata. This will allow us to know which plants are best suited to the area and can serve as future seeds. (Satellite Applications Catapult, Imgeospatial, Imperial, University of Moratuwa, LIPI)
Develop a variety of manufactured products with trade potential, from fibre extraction, handicraft production, flour preparation and extraction of active ingredients. All within a community development environment, with zero deforestation, promoting reforestation and maintaining biodiversity in a sustainable environment (Imperial, University of Moratuwa, National University of Loja)
Develop a robotic tree climber that can be transported in a back-sack, and mounted on a tree quickly, to remotely control using video feedback to harvest the fruits easily (Imperial, National University of Loja)