Free at Rio Olympics: 9 million forest-friendly condoms

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9 million forest friendly condoms for Rio Olympics
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9 million forest friendly condoms for Rio Olympics
Condoms, produced with natural rubber extracted from the Seringueira tree, are tested at Natex male condoms plant in Xapuri, Acre state, Brazil, June 23, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes 
Condoms, produced with natural rubber extracted from the Seringueira tree, are tested at the Natex male condoms plant in Xapuri, Acre state, Brazil, June 23, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes 
Condoms, produced with natural rubber extracted from the Seringueira tree, are seen at the Natex male condoms plant in Xapuri, Acre state, Brazil, June 23, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes 
Condoms, produced with natural rubber extracted from the Seringueira tree, are seen at the Natex male condoms plant in Xapuri, Acre state, Brazil, June 23, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes
Condoms, produced with natural rubber extracted from the Seringueira tree, are seen at the Natex male condoms plant in Xapuri, Acre state, Brazil, June 23, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes 
Condoms, produced with natural rubber extracted from the Seringueira tree, are seen at the Natex male condoms plant in Xapuri, Acre state, Brazil, June 23, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes 
Condoms, produced with natural rubber extracted from the Seringueira tree, are seen at the Natex male condoms plant in Xapuri, Acre state, Brazil, June 23, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes 
Antonia Marcelino, 51, carries a handmade wooden leg, a symbol of grace, during an annual celebration in Chico Mendes Extraction Reserve in Xapuri, Acre state, Brazil, June 24, 2016. The leg is an offering to Sao Joao do Guarani (St. John the Guarani), who devotees believe is a saint of the forest and can grant blessings and miracles. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes 
A youth cuts a friend's hair outside his house, in Chico Mendes Extraction Reserve in Xapuri, Acre state, Brazil, June 23, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes 
A house stands in the Chico Mendes Extraction Reserve in Xapuri, Acre state, Brazil, June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes 
Boys play soccer in Chico Mendes Extraction Reserve in Xapuri, Acre state, Brazil, June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes 
Raimundo Mendes de Barros, 71, who has worked as a rubber extractor for 57 years, talks with his wife and children at his house in Chico Mendes Extraction Reserve in Xapuri, Acre state, Brazil, June 22, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes 
Raimundo Mendes de Barros, 71, who has worked as a rubber extractor for 57 years, cuts a Seringueira rubber tree in Chico Mendes Extraction Reserve in Xapuri, Acre state, Brazil, June 22, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes
A house stands in the Chico Mendes Extraction Reserve in Xapuri, Acre state, Brazil, June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes 
Houses stand on the banks of Acre river in Xapuri, Acre state, Brazil, June 25, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes 
A devotee rides her horse around a chapel to make an offering to Sao Joao do Guarani (Saint Joao of Guarani) during an annual celebration in Chico Mendes Extraction Reserve in Xapuri, Acre state, Brazil, June 24, 2016. Devotees believe that Sao Joao do Guarani is a saint of the forest and can grant blessings and miracles. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes 
A devotee walks on his knees around a chapel to make an offering to Sao Joao do Guarani (Saint Joao of Guarani) during an annual celebration in Chico Mendes Extraction Reserve in Xapuri, Acre state, Brazil, June 24, 2016. Devotees believe that Sao Joao do Guarani is a saint of the forest and can grant blessings and miracles. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes 
A devotee prays in front of a statue of Sao Joao do Guarani (Saint Joao of Guarani) during an annual celebration in Chico Mendes Extraction Reserve in Xapuri, Acre state, Brazil, June 24, 2016. Devotees believe that Sao Joao do Guarani is a saint of the forest and can grant blessings and miracles. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes
A Seringueira rubber tree, which is native to the Amazon rainforest, stands in Chico Mendes Extraction Reserve in Xapuri, Acre state, Brazil, June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes 
Raimundo Mendes de Barros, 71, who has worked as a rubber extractor for 57 years, prepares to cut a Seringueira rubber tree in Chico Mendes Extraction Reserve in Xapuri, Acre state, Brazil, June 22, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes 
A view shows a Natex plant, which produces male condoms made of natural rubber extracted from the Seringueira tree, in Xapuri, Acre state, Brazil, June 23, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes 
Joao Batista, 43, who has worked as a rubber extractor since his childhood, poses for a photograph in front of a Seringueira rubber tree in Chico Mendes Extraction Reserve, in Xapuri, Acre state, Brazil, June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes 
Domingos da Conceicao, 54, who has worked as a rubber extractor since his childhood, poses for a photograph in the woods around his home, as he leaves to hunt in Chico Mendes Extraction Reserve in Xapuri, Acre state, Brazil, June 23, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes
Joao Batista Araujo, 34, who has worked as a rubber extractor since his childhood, poses for a photograph in front of a Seringueira rubber tree in Chico Mendes Extraction Reserve, in Xapuri, Acre state, Brazil, June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes 
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XAPURI, Brazil (Reuters) - Brazil's government will hand out 9 million condoms for free around Rio de Janeiro during the Olympics in August, a push meant to encourage safe sex and also defend the Amazon rainforest.

Rio's local Olympic organizing committee said about 450,000 of the sustainably-produced condoms will be destined for athletes and staff housed in the Olympic Village.

The rest will be made widely available to the many visitors who will be arriving in the city in just a few weeks, the Health Ministry said.

All the condoms to be distributed are produced by Natex, a factory in the western Amazonian state of Acre, deep in the rainforest near Brazil's border with Bolivia.

The factory, run by the Acre state government, uses latex gathered from Amazon rubber trees by tappers who are employed by a government-run program designed to protect their traditional livelihood, foster sustainable use of the rainforest and deter illegal loggers.

The tappers see themselves as guardians of the rainforest.

On a recent outing, Raimundo Mendes de Barros, a 71-year-old lifelong rubber tapper with a stark white beard, gathered the milky-white latex dripping into metal buckets hooked at the base of countless trees. Above, the tropical sun was filtered by the Amazon canopy.

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Barros spoke with pride about the fierce fight he and other sustainable rubber tappers wage to maintain their craft.

"Our condom factory, aside from guaranteeing a fair price for the rubber, employs hundreds," he said. "It gives the world a product - the condom - that will be very present there in Rio, to fight disease and help with birth control."

For decades, tappers like Barros have been on the front line of pushing Brazilian leaders to do more to halt deforestation, which is mostly caused by the illegal clearing of forest for ranching, soy farms and timber extraction.

The fight has sometimes come at a heavy cost as farmers and loggers have sometimes retaliated with hired guns. Scores of people have been killed over the years trying to protect the forest, most notably the internationally known environmentalist and rubber tapper Chico Mendes.

His 1988 murder in Xapuri, where the condom factory now stands, helped galvanize the government to take serious measures to battle deforestation and the violence against Amazon defenders.

For several years Brazil's Health Ministry has distributed millions of condoms from the factory for free at big events around Brazil - most notably the annual bacchanal of Carnival.

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