Growing new possibilities through the tree of life: Brazil

Case study

People call the Carnauba the 'tree of life' because of its symbolic and practical importance. Communities in the Ceará state of northeastern Brazil have nurtured the trees for centuries, using them for food as well as prizing the usefulness of Carnauba wax, wood and straw.

The Carnauba continues to create opportunities, including through an innovative social enterprise run by the Diageo Institute that aims to create a better future for women from some of society's most marginalised groups - including women prisoners.

Our programme teaches women how to use the straw in traditional crafts, and supports them as they make beautiful straw objects and create new incomes. Some of the craft products they create are used to decorate one of our most iconic products - the traditional straw-covered bottles of Ypióca cachaça.

The programme focused on women artisans in communities around Ceará state before expanding to include around 30 women in Brazil's prison system. After training, participating prisoners receive a salary and earn reductions in their sentence.

It is a programme that supports the Carnauba - harvesting the straw prolongs the tree's life. And it creates opportunities both for women's economic development in Brazil, and for wider growth. So far, we have helped train 30 prisoners and 80 women from the wider community - and we believe we have found a new way for the tree of life to grow a better future.