The Buriti Project - crafts, nature and society, was undertaken by the Terra Brasilis Institute in the region of Barreirinhas, MA, in 2002, in partnership with SEBRAE-MA and the Ministry of Environment, and its goal was to diagnose the ecological and socio-economic situation with regards to extraction and the use of handcrafted buriti leaves (Mauritia flexuosa), in addition to indicating activities to be undertaken with the waterside communities, public power and private initiatives, favoring the development and preservation of natural and cultural resources of the region.
The extractivism of the buriti palm in its area of occurrence in the state of Maranhão is an important source of income for the local people. Several parts of a buriti tree are used for different purposes and are a source of significant income. However, despite its importance in the region's economy, the Buriti trees have been rapidly decreasing. Problems related to the intense pressure in collecting the burity leaves, substituting the river banks, siltation of the headwaters, fires and other unsustainable practices greatly contribute to the decline of the burity populations in the region of Barreirinhas. It is urgent to carry out studies and implement projects in order to broaden the socio-environmental issues of the handcraft activities using burity leaves, for their long-term sustainability.
The buriti (Mauritia flexuosa) is considered the most abundant palm in the country. It occurs in the Cerrado, the Amazon and Pantanal.
The communities in the region of Barreirinhas, MA, have an important source of income with the extraction of buritis, since its fibers are used in manual works. The pressure behind the collection, for handcraft, as well as for other uses, such as for roofing, have negatively impacted the areas of buriti trees. Besides the pressure to collect the leaves, the buritis in the region have undergone great changes, especially due to the real-estate boom.