The Caatinga is an exclusively Brazilian biome, the most extensive in the Northeast, covering about 10% of the country and parts or all of the states of Ceará, Bahia, Sergipe, Pernambuco, Alagoas, Paraíba, Rio Grande do Norte and Piauí, in addition to small areas in Maranhão and Minas Gerais. About 900 plant species are found in this biome, including: amburana, aroeira, umbuzeiro, baraúna, maniçoba, macambira, mandacaru, juazeiro, manioc and cashew, as well as a wide variety of fauna, with hundreds of species of birds, mammals and fish. Caatinga is a Tupi-Guarani word meaning white woods. This is due to the fact that its dry vegetation often sheds its leaves during droughts, taking on a grayish-white look.
Shallow soils and hot weather, irregular rainfall and a high rate of evaporation make the Caatinga a vulnerable environment. Equilibrium in this biome needs special care due to its location in one of the semi-arid regions with heaviest demographic pressure in the world, characterized by low Human Development Indices and historically deep socioeconomic inequalities. With vegetation reduced to 50% of the states’ areas, the Caatinga is facing difficult challenges and is in need of establishment of alternative subsistence mechanisms which generate development and ensure social justice and environmental conservation.
Evergreen tree, native of Brazil, which can reach the height of 20 meters. The Northeast accounts for 95% of national production. The fruit is composed of two parts, commonly known as fruit and nut. The fruit is rich in vitamin C, calcium, iron and phosphorus, and is used to make juice, sweets, compotes and sundried fruit. The cashew almond (the actual fruit), when roasted, has high market value. The fine oil, which is employed in cosmetics, medicine and cooking, is extracted from the nut (almond and shell).