The Multiple Benefits of Organic Cacao Production

Our UK-based partner, Fauna & Flora International recently released their quarterly newsletter, FFI Update.  There is a wonderful section on our organic cacao operations and the impact it has on the rest of our conservation efforts.  Here’s the text from the article:

Cacao beans must be fermented and dried before being turned into chocolate.

Cacao beans must be fermented and dried before being turned into chocolate.

“Slash-and-burn” is an all too common phrase in conservationsts’ parlance and sadly Belize is no exception.  People Toledo, Belize’s southern-most district, are the country’s poorest and often have no choice but to cut and burn the forest to make way for maize and other subsistence crops, thereby threatening jaguars and many other endangered species.  However, working alongside our in-country partner the Ya’axche Conservation Trust, FFI has found a way to solve this desperate situation – and it all boils down (so to speak) to chocolate.

With FFI’s support, Ya’axche enlisted agro-forestry expert Auxebio Sho – a local Mayan – to promote a crop traditionally grown in the area: cacao (the chocolate bean).  Cacao is an ideal crop since it is native and can be grown organically under natural forest canopy (hence the term agro-forestry).

Auxebio has so far directly taught 75 Mayan farmers in villages surrounding the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve (which Ya’axche owns and manages) how to grow cacao, while providing them with seedlings for cacao and hardwood shade trees such as mahogany.

fbahThe growers then sell all their cacao beans to the Toledo Cacao Growers Association, which in turn sells all its beans to the UK-based chocolate company Green & Black’s.  By helping them tap into a fair trade market, FFI and Ya’axche have enabled the cacao growers to get as much as BZ$2.30 (US$1.15) per pound compared to the 50 cents (US$0.25) per pound they received before, thus removing the need for them to slash-and-burn the forest to make a living.

Also, because local people now understand the need to conserve the forest that provides their livelihood, they are more likely to report instances of illegal logging to Ya’axche rangers.  In this way, the areas of sustainably-used forest create a buffer zone which protects the pristine forest habitat of the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve.

(Photo credits: Rebecca Foges/FFI)

A key take-away from this article is the integrated nature of all operations – economic and conservationist – in contributing to one unified goal: Sustained economic and environmental viability of the people and natural resources of the region.  We thank FFI for their coverage of this issue and welcome all like-minded individuals and organizations to join our efforts!

[If you’d like to receive this newsletter, consider becoming a member of FFI. You get three updates and a glossy magazine every year. Take a look at their site for more info.]

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