In 1991 the babassu breakers tried a new way to get access to the babassu nuts - they formed a workers co-operative called COPPALJ. Pulling together as a team and with strength in numbers for the first time, they were able to take on the power of the large landowners.
As a result of campaigning by COPPALJ, 80 per cent of the area where palms grow was opened up. The women gained legal access to the land and the landowners were forced to give guarantees that the trees would not be cut down for grazing cattle.
COPPALJ set up a community shop in each village, where the babassu breakers can trade their nut harvest in return for goods or cash. The co-operative then collects the nuts from the shops each week and takes them to its factory, where the nut kernels are pressed to extract oil.
A major breakthrough came in 1994, when The Body Shop contacted COPPALJ after research had shown that babassu oil is an excellent all-round moisturiser. Since then the company has bought over 140 tonnes of the oil from COPPALJ. As a result: