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Condom Trees

Land Use, Brazil

In the town of Xapurí stands a unique condom factory. It is partly owned by the NATEX condom company and partly by the Brazilian ministries of Environment and Health. It has been created as a solution to two of the local problems: deforestation and HIV, both spreading in the country.

Rubber tree forest
Rubber tree tappers have lived in the Xapurí area for decades, but massive rubber plantations in South-East Asia led to the collapse of the industry in Brazil. As a result cattle ranching became much more profitable on these lands and the rubber tree forests where threatened to become cleared to make way for the growing number of farm animals. The famous environmentalist and rubber tapper Chico Mendes, who was assassinated twenty years ago, saw the rubber tappers as natural custodians of the forest. Therefore he sought a way to combine the safeguarding of the forest and the income and living standards of the rubber tappers. The condom factory is his legacy.

Natural latex
At the NATEX factory condoms are made from locally tapped natural latex. Apart from payment for the collected rubber, the tappers receive a fee for “environmental services”. Whereby their important role in maintaining the forest is emphasized. The 700 rubber tappers and 100 factory employees are able to produce 100 million quality condoms a year, which the Brazilian government distributes for free. By making the product free available, the government intents to alter the attitude of the people and normalize condom use.


Photo credit: UNAIDS/J.Spaull