Cusi palm trees (Attalea speciosa) grow abundantly in Guarayos and Chiquitano territories. The cusi palm tree is used for many things including food, medicine, and to build houses. It produces a fruit that looks like a tiny coconut that envelops an almond shaped seed. It is harvested and collected to produce non-timber forest products (NTFP). Mrs. Ludovica Macue, an indigenous woman from Yaguaru shares: “The cusi is used for fuel, before there was no candle, we used it for lighter, when someone has a cough for medicine, for hair, gray hair, dandruff, with the palm tree we have built our houses , so we have faith that it can be exported” (Movimiento Regional Por La Tierra).
Medicinal uses of cusi include treatment of various ailments that include cough, wounds, parasites, and more. For a cough remedy, one can mix a few drops of liquid from boiled guava leaves (Psidium guajava L.) with a few tablespoons of cusi oil and take it four times daily. The oil has also been used to provide relief from headaches by gently massaging the oil directly onto the head. Those suffering from dandruff can rub a small amount of the oil into their scalp twice daily to help treat dandruff . Rubbing cusi oil onto the scalp of hair is believed to help increase the rate of hair growth. To get rid of parasites, cusi oil is mixed with sugar and eaten. Constipation can also be treated using cusi as it can be a useful laxative. Cusi has been found to have many medicinal properties that include anti-inflammatory, anti-fever, and anthelmintic.
Other uses of cusi palm trees include using parts of the plant to build houses and the residue from the harvesting and processing of the cusi fruit to make fuel. To make fuel out of the cusi plant residue, after extracting the oily kernels, the husks are buried in deep pits that are then covered with leaves and soil. The filled pits are set on fire and allowed to burn slowly in order to form charcoal that can be used for energy or sold in markets for income.
SIREJ is working in collaboration with CIPCA to help promote and connect cusieras with buyers. Please message firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to learn more about purchasing cusi oil.
Video of cusi palm tree captured by study abroad students from the 2019 service-learning program 'Indigenous Rights and Environmental Justice'. Students had the opportunity to visit and meet women cusieras in Momene .
In Momene, women cusieras harvest and make cusi oil. Photo taken by study abroad students from the 2019 service-learning program 'Indigenous Rights and Environmental Justice'.
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Working in collaboration with CIPCA, a local indigenous organizations in Bolivia, we are finding ways to connect cusieras (cusi harvester) with potential buyers and promote their non-timber forest products. Cusi is harvested sustainably without having to cut the trees down. In this way we help mitigate deforestation and leave the trees for future generations.