Agroecologists from Göttingen University study their socio-ecological importance in South America
In the western Amazon region, cacao has been cultivated since prehistoric times and the area is a valuable resource for genetic diversity of cacao plants. There is growing interest here in switching cultivation from high-yielding but mostly low-quality cacao to indigenous cacao varieties that produce chocolate with particularly fine flavours. This could enable smallholder farmers to obtain higher prices, as an international team of researchers led by the University of Göttingen has shown. In addition, these varieties could adapt better to the local climate and growing conditions. Further benefits include promoting local biodiversity and ecosystem services such as pollination and biological pest control. The results were published in the journal Conservation Letters.
Experience from the successful conversion of plantations with non-indigenous cacao varieties to agroforestry with varieties to produce fine-flavoured cocoa, alongside rejuvenation by grafting plants, shows that a smooth transition is possible with only minor and short-term losses in productivity. "This also requires selection programmes for high-yielding and disease-resistant indigenous cacao genotypes that produce this fine flavour, as well as the organisation of smallholder farmers into cooperatives to cushion the high fluctuations on the cacao market," adds agroecologist Dr Carolina Ocampo-Ariza, Göttingen.
Original publication: Tscharntke, T., Ocampo-Ariza, C., et al. 2022. Socio-ecological benefits of fine-flavor cacao in its center of origin. Conservation Letters n/a, e12936. DoI: 10.1111/conl.12936