Guarana, a Brazilian plant of global importance

Have you ever heard of guarana? My current reasearch focuses on this caffeine-rich, energizing plant originary from the central Brazilian Amazon region. Guarana was first domesticated by the Sateré-Mawé people and is now produced by family and corporate farmers in different parts from Brazil and traded worldwide. You’ve probably seen the name guarana already: on tea bags, energizing pills, soda bottles or even on shampoo bottles… The most interesting part of guarana is its seed, and the main process of production and use is very similar to coffee’s: the seeds are roasted, turned into powder and mixed with water or juice; but for the most part, the roasted seeds are sold to the soda industry.

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I’ve decided to work with small family farmers who live and work in guarana’s original region, in the state of Amazonas, Brazil. My goal is to understand how their knowledge about guarana production was formed and transformed, in the perspective of the plant’s globalization due to a growing interest for its properties : where does this knowledge come from and how was it created? How do farmers integrate innovations into their knowledge and practices? What are the consequences on guarana’s diversity in the field and in the forest? This study means I spend a lot of time in the field with guarana producers, men, women, observing their techniques, chatting with them about how they learned to grow and transform guarana, where they get the plant from, and how they see their future. It’s very exciting, even if it means spending many hours travelling by boat, eating a lot of mandioca and sleeping in a hammock for weeks in row! – Mélanie Congretel.

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