Distributor:  Global Environmental Justice
Length:  8 minutes
Date:  2014
Genre:  Expository
Language:  Portuguese / English subtitles
Color/BW:  Color


Curator imageLaura Miller, Applied ethicist and instructor, Southwestern Illinois College, St. Louis Community College, Fontbonne University, and Webster University

You might also be interested in...

Brazil's Women Warriors

New to the Global Environmental Justice Project? Please register and login to preview and/or license this film. If your institution has already licensed this film, you will need to access this page from your institution's network to watch the film. For help on using the Docuseek2 platform, please visit our help wiki.

* New title added January 2023 *
If Not Us Then Who?  Film 6 of 7 

400,000 women harvest the nuts of the babassu palm, which is used to produce soap, oil, bread, charcoal,and cosmetics, providing them a modest living. When access to the trees was denied, a movement began.

Brazil's Women Warriors

If Not Us Then Who? Film 6 (7:30)
Brazil’s Warrior Women: a movement for access to babassu oil

This is one of seven short films about sustainable living in the forests of Indonesia, Costa Rica and Brazil. Taken together, they tell a story of oppression, resistance, accomplishments, and confidence for the future.

Laura Miller, Applied ethicist and instructor, Southwestern Illinois College, St. Louis Community College, Fontbonne University, and Webster University

Please download the teacher's guide for maps, background information, suggested subjects, questions and activities.

"They are warriors because they have the courage to fight and say things."

In Brazil, women without land have been left to find ways to provide for themselves. 400,000 women harvest the nuts of the babassu palm, which is used to produce soap, oil, bread, and charcoal, providing them a modest living. Still, this way of life was not without threat, sometimes physical, by ranchers and farmers who sought to ban the women from their fields. In response, the babassu harvesters joined a women’s rights movement advocating their right to harvest babassu without fear. They have since established the “Free Babassu Law” in seven states, guaranteeing them free access to the forests. The passing of this law has now enabled women to provide for themselves and their families, and to craft long-term plans that were never possible before.


Other titles in the If Not Us Then Who? Collection:

Download the Teacher's Guide


00:00:03.130 --> 00:00:06.416
Brazil's Warrior Women

00:00:10.516 --> 00:00:14.103
The nut breakers are warriors.

00:00:15.012 --> 00:00:20.878
They are warriors because they fight and have the courage to say things.

00:00:27.153 --> 00:00:34.123
We are a movement fighting for the sake of our Babassu forests.

00:00:38.333 --> 00:00:41.396
The land is good, as good as ever.

00:00:42.185 --> 00:00:46.425
Many coconuts, always breaking, always insisting, always chatting.

00:00:56.203 --> 00:00:58.989
We take the oil from the almond,

00:00:58.989 --> 00:01:01.789
The with the shell we produce charcoal.

00:01:03.088 --> 00:01:06.746
Myself, from time to time I use it,

00:01:06.746 --> 00:01:11.484
As it helps with gastritis and stomach pain. You just take the flesh and sprinkle it in food.

00:01:13.139 --> 00:01:18.423
This little flesh does a lot, I make bread.

00:01:25.222 --> 00:01:33.423
It means my whole life because I am the daughter of a nut breaker.

00:01:34.077 --> 00:01:39.293
I learned to break coconut when I was very young.

00:01:39.293 --> 00:01:42.740
I have been a single mother for the past six years and I have seven children who I support by breaking coconut.

00:01:42.740 --> 00:01:45.675
So for me it is my life and that of my children.

00:01:53.803 --> 00:02:00.013
First we make milk to put into the pot with the meat and the beans.

00:02:00.773 --> 00:02:12.559
The oil is roasted for food, and the oil that is not roasted is used as a cleaning product like soap.

00:02:12.559 --> 00:02:15.329
We then sell to get money.

00:02:16.930 --> 00:02:19.452
Our wealth is the Babassu and that is what unites us.

00:02:20.390 --> 00:02:23.303
We are milk sisters of the Babassu.

00:02:28.391 --> 00:02:35.048
I think that the threats are constant and they change they change their face.

00:02:38.739 --> 00:02:47.153
The fence is a symbol of prohibition, it means we have no right to the babassu.

00:02:51.010 --> 00:02:57.504
In the beginning, the woman here were involved in an extremely tough fight.

00:03:03.130 --> 00:03:09.757
Some time ago the cattle rancher arrived and said he did not want her breaking coconut in the area.

00:03:09.757 --> 00:03:14.754
And then, when she returned there the next day, her litre bottles had been punctured with a bullet.

00:03:14.754 --> 00:03:19.744
So he meant that if he had found her there, he would have killed her, right?

00:03:24.154 --> 00:03:30.216
The cattle rancher told the gunman to lace the rope used for catching cattle, around her.

00:03:30.216 --> 00:03:34.231
And then he lassoed her, she was breaking coconut and he lassoed her.

00:03:34.231 --> 00:03:39.550
She put both hands to the chord so it wouldn’t cut her neck and then he started dragging her.

00:03:40.038 --> 00:03:46.918
In another case, a woman and her community of Espirito Santo were destroyed.

00:03:46.918 --> 00:03:51.348
They killed the pigs and dogs and then they violated her, raped her, but didn’t kill her.

00:03:51.348 --> 00:03:55.917
He left her alive there and then the animals ate her. We found only a trace.

00:03:56.511 --> 00:04:03.360
So, we revolted and then we started to fight. And with the support of the priest, we began to gain knowledge.

00:04:03.360 --> 00:04:10.202
We began to join Piaui, Maranhao, Imperatriz and Baixada.

00:04:10.202 --> 00:04:16.512
And we started discussing the creation of the coconut breakers movement at a regional level.

00:04:18.398 --> 00:04:24.158
So today we have this fight and we will not give up so easy.

00:04:25.680 --> 00:04:35.770
Their long struggle established the ‘Free Babassu Law’ in 17 municipalities, protecting the Babasssu forests and giving the landless coconut gatherers free access.

00:04:37.134 --> 00:04:39.648
Babassu Forests

00:04:40.615 --> 00:04:43.964
17 ‘Free Babassu’ Municipalities

00:04:48.879 --> 00:04:50.253
All good

00:04:51.067 --> 00:04:55.564
The ‘Free Babassu Law’ has enabled them to start planning for the long term.

00:04:58.936 --> 00:05:07.269
This production is of great importance for the women because when it is sold, each woman gets her percentage.

00:05:08.235 --> 00:05:13.258
The first stock had more than three thousand litres, sold.

00:05:13.928 --> 00:05:17.256
We’re diversifying production.

00:05:17.256 --> 00:05:23.707
And, in addition to helping people with a family income, we’re protecting the forest.

00:05:25.928 --> 00:05:31.957
We are selling to Buy Direct, which is the program straight to school lunches.

00:05:32.596 --> 00:05:37.366
It gives a very good juice product and also improves our family income.

00:05:37.947 --> 00:05:45.426
The ‘Law of Free Babassu’ not only protects the babassu, it also protect the environment and forest, the Amazon as a whole.

00:05:47.336 --> 00:05:53.697
We won everything through associations as part of the women’s movement.

00:05:54.398 --> 00:05:55.988
It’s marvelous.

00:06:14.048 --> 00:06:17.438
It is a community of people who work in the fields, breaking coconuts,

00:06:17.438 --> 00:06:23.129
fishing, dancing, leaping, who play and who are doing a lot of things.

00:06:23.129 --> 00:06:32.629
And that preserves our ancestors, which we believe is a force that helps us and holds our hands to say,

00:06:32.629 --> 00:06:35.567
Do not fall, arise.

00:06:37.276 --> 00:06:45.099
There are over 400,000 Babassu Coconut Breakers working to protect 18 million hectares of Brazil’s forests.

00:06:47.716 --> 00:06:53.126
They will continue to enjoy life, improve it and enact the ‘Free Babassu Law’

00:07:16.867 --> 00:07:20.127
You already know you can not cut them down…

00:07:20.127 --> 00:07:23.957
… We need to preserve our natural wealth’


If Not Us Then Who?
Reviews by Isadora Lambert for Video Librarian 21 April 2023

The seven short films collected in If Not Us Then Who? chronicle sustainable practices in the forests of Indonesia, Costa Rica, and Brazil. While many environmental documentaries focus on the devastation humankind inflicts upon the world, these seven films demonstrate resilience and hope for the future.

Part One: Indonesia

Sungai Utik: The fight for recognition (21 min)

The first film in “If Not Us Then Who?” is Sungai Utik: The fight for recognition. At 21 minutes, this is the longest film in the collection. Sungai Utik profiles a Dayak community that follows sustainable practices passed down by their ancestors to protect forest lands. While outsiders see the financial gain in exploiting the forest’s resources, the Sungai Utik take only the resources they need and repay the earth for what they take by planting new trees. The film follows their quest to receive legal protection and fair treatment from the government.

Building a Longhouse as a Cultural Center (12 min)

The second film in the collection follows the Sungai Utik people as they build a traditional longhouse for the first time in fifty years. This building acts a cultural center where the community can gather, attend school, make food, and live together. The indigenous filmmaker of Building a Longhouse as a Cultural Center emphasizes the community effort that makes this construction possible and pays particular attention to the elders in the community.

The Dyak Iban Way of Farming (13 min)

This documentary short discusses traditional Dayak Iban farming methods. Their process involves rotating farmlands and utilizing carefully controlled burning. Although this is a traditional technique, the government has deemed controlled burning illegal due to pollution and forest fires. However, the true environmental damage is caused by massive palm oil plantations. The Dyak Iban Way of Farming demonstrates the cultural and ecological value of maintaining traditional practices.

Homecoming: Indigenous youth return to the land (8 min)

Homecoming: Indigenous youth return to the land focuses on Indigenous youth and how crucial this generation is to environmental activism. While many youths choose to leave their communities to study and work in cities, this documentary examines those who choose to return in order to help their communities by integrating tradition with sustainable planning.

Part Two: Costa Rica/ Brazil

A Sustainable Solution: Environmental tax to maintain forests in Costa Rica (7 min)

This documentary short highlights the impact Indigenous people have made in reducing logging in Costa Rica. A government program called Payment for Environmental Services supports sustainable practices and motivates communities. A Sustainable Solution proves that government intervention can have a positive impact on the environment.

Brazil's Warrior Women: Women’s movement wins access to babassu oil (8 min)

In Brazil, 400,000 women harvest nuts from the babassu palm in order to maintain a living. However, some ranchers and farmers pose a threat to these women, threatening to physically ban the women from the fields. Brazil's Warrior Women follows the passing of a law that allows these women to remain in the fields and provide for their families.


A Tribute to Dona Dije, Babassu Woman Warrior: An interview with the leader of the babassu movement (4 min)

A Tribute to Dona Dijé, Babassu Woman Warrior pays special tribute to Dona Dijé, a central organizer of the Babassu movement. In this interview, she reflects on how the movement has impacted both the protection of women as well as the Amazon.

These seven documentary films are unique in their emphasis on how Indigenous communities influence environmental conservation. “If Not Us Then Who?” champions perspectives that are often not shown on screen. These inspiring stories would be welcome in both high school and college classrooms.

What academic subjects would this film be suitable for?

This film would be suitable for students and library patrons interested in environmental studies, public policy, political science, and global studies.

How does this film contribute to a discussion of environmental or climate justice, and/or to environmental literacy? 

If Not Us Then Who? contributes to discussions of climate justice by demonstrating solutions for environmental issues, and prioritizing indigenous voices.

What type of library programming could use this title?

These short films would be perfect for library programming events focused on sustainable solutions for the future.


Main credits

Redman, Paul (film director)
Redman, Paul (director of photography)
Redman, Paul (editor of moving image work)
Lewis, Tim (film producer)

Other credits

Music, Jayme with Jon Walker.

Distributor credits

Tim Lewis

Paul Redman

Docuseek subjects

Indigenous Studies
Forests and Rainforests
Conservation and Protection
Cultural Anthropology
Government Policy
Women's Studies
Women's History
Global / International Studies

Distributor subjects

Indonesia,Indigenous Rights,Deforestation,Logging,Sustainability,Conservation Law,Biodiversity,Cultural Ethnography,Government,United Nations,Women’s Movements,


Espírito Santo, Piauí, Maranhão,; Imperatriz, Biaxada, Babassu; nut breakers movement,; Buy Direct,; "Brazil's Women Warriors "; Indonesia; Indigenous Studies; Forestry; Forests and Rainforests; Sustainability; Conservation and Protection; Biodiversity; Ethnography; Cultural Anthropology; Government Policy; Women's Studies; Women's History; Global / International Studies;

Welcome to Docuseek2!

Docuseek2 is a streaming platform of the best documentary and social issue films available for the higher education community.

Anyone may search for titles and find detailed information about the titles. To preview films or license them for streaming, you must register and login.

Currently, we support online registration for anyone affiliated with a higher education institution. Please inquire if you are with a K-12 district or school or with a public library.

Click the Close button to get started!