Posts Tagged cacao

Ya’axché promoting Sustainable Livelihoods within the communities of the Toledo District

“Production of Cacao in an Agroforestry System”

Farmers in Honduras

Ya’axché  Conservation Trust in its ongoing efforts of promoting sustainable livelihoods in southern Belize, has coordinated a 5-day training course for local farmers in advance cacao production. A delegation of 15 participants travelled to Honduras to receive training from Fundacion Hondurena De Investigacion Agricola (FHIA). The main objective of the course was to gain more knowledge and information in cacao production, with a focus on the biology of the plant, pest and disease control, shade management, pruning, harvesting, proper steps for fermentation, types of soil that favor cacao, and agro-forestry techniques and site visits.

Experts explain to farmers Agroforestry techniques

The training which took place from February 15th to 20th, 2010 had the participation of three  staff members from the Toledo Cacao Growers Association (TCGA), in a addition to the twelve farmers from the communities that buffer the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve in attendance. Farmers were amazed and delighted to see the production of cacao in its many stages, including the final steps of extracting the seeds. By adopting and modifying the practices learnt in Honduras, Ya’axché anticipates these enlightened and motivated  farmers to transform the production of cacao in Belize. With their newly acquired knowledge and experience, these farmers are poised to address the difficulties caused by the effects, sharing skills with fellow farmers in the district.

This training was made possible by the generous support of the Organization of American States (OAS).


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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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Ya’axche is about Far More than Just Conservation

When the Ya’axche Conservation Trust was founded around 11 years ago, its focus was on preserving the environment around the Golden Stream River — land it had recently purchased with help from England-based FFI.  But the Ya’axche mission never focused solely on protecting the environment.  It focused on building up the communities in the area.  How could it reconcile these two goals which are often at odds with each other?

Over time, Ya’axche developed a blended methodology for the dual development of environmental and socio-economic strengthening within the Toledo District.  This approach requires long-term vision and planning horizons for environmental conservation, yet must also acknowledge the immediacy of sustained economic activity (much of which is based on using environmental resources).

The concepts that came out of this included rotating forest plots that would be cleared for seasonal agriculture, growing shade-loving crops under the canopies of larger hardwood trees, reducing the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and finding business opportunities outside of traditional slash & burn agriculture and timber extraction.

Cocao grows wonderfully in the shade of a hardwood forest

Cocao grows wonderfully in the shade of a hardwood forest

Little did we know it, but we were slowly stumbling onto the philosophies of Integrated Landscape Management.  You see, working toward the goals I mentioned on a local level is one thing, but to have a true impact on the quality of the future environment — and to have a system that is in itself perpetual — cultural and economic mores must be impacted.  Governmental policy and regulation must be supportive; this is of particular importance for achieving balance between people, natural resources and profit.  Everyone has to be on board.  When not, your efforts reduce to a certain amount of wheel-spinning.

Integrated Landscape Management is where multiple abiotic, biotic and cultural goals are simultaneously pursued. Abiotic goals include water resources, soil, and air quality. Biotic goals focus on biodiversity in general, including individual species and habitat protection and ecological restoration. Cultural goals are human-based and include: transportation, land use, recreation, historic preservation and economic goals.  ILM is a mechanism for applying sustainable development to land and resource use through integration among the stages of decision makers (vertically – from a global and national to a regional and local level), integration across sectors and land uses (horizontally – human settlement, agriculture, forestry etc), and integration over time and space.  It embraces a state of balance in which use, conservation and protection are applied appropriately and at the correct scale.


ILM is a mechanism for applying sustainable development.  For it to function, it must include a specific set of elements.  Firstly, there must be a decision making framework comprised of Policy and Strategic Planning, a Legal Regime, Planning and Project Review.  Secondly, this must be complimented by the functional components to operationalize it.  These are the landscape, the actors, the data, the technology and the coordination.

This concept is hugely important for Ya’axche and its local and national efforts.  As such, we will be providing weekly updates (every Wed) on our activities in this very innovative and highly complex arena.  Stay tuned!

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