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“The rainforest is like my second mother,” says José Ribamar as he surveys the rich Amazonian landscape around us. “It provides the air that we breathe: we depend and live on the forest.” Clutching a 10-inch machete, he smiles as he wanders off down a dirt-track towards his home, a two-hour walk away. Behind him, children kick a football around a grassy clearing and a man clambers onto his horse.
Ribamar lives in the Brazilian state of Acre and works as a traditional seringueiro – he extracts wild rubber from the region’s native rubber trees. This morning he came to this remote glade in the forest, along with around 20 other local seringueiros, to discuss the future of his trade and the future of his forest. Both have been in danger for many decades due to cattle farming and illegal deforestation. However, thanks to a French shoe company, wild Amazonian rubber is back in demand.
Veja is an ethical footwear brand born in 2005. Co-founded by school friends Sébastien Kopp and François Ghislain Morillion, its goal is to create trainers that are ecologically conscious and fairly produced.
“A lot of people think we’re just a vegan shoe company but we use all types of materials including leathers and recycled plastics,” Kopp says. “I don’t like saying we have a mission but what moves us is to go further, always further into the transparency movement. Our aim is not to change reality – we are just a drop of water in the ocean – but we want to do our work in the best way that we can.”
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