Organic foods producer Seeds of Change said Friday it is funding a partnership with Conservation International (CI) to create an environmentally sustainable cacao industry in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest where it said both cacao farming and biodiversity are in jeopardy.
The two groups will work with local cooperatives in Southern Bahia to build a more sustainable system of cultivating cacao called "cabruca" in which the cacao is naturally grown under the canopy of Atlantic Forest trees, which also serves as habitat for endangered forest fauna and flora disappearing with increased deforestation.
"The generous support of Seeds of Change will allow us to strengthen our alliances with Brazilian cacao producers in ways that both contribute to enhancing the biodiversity of the Atlantic Forest and the economic needs and interests of local farmers," said Paulo Gustavo Prado, environmental policy director of CI’s Brazil program.
Forest biodiversity has gradually disappeared in recent times as farmers in the region have battled devastating plant diseases that have put farms out of business and threatened the feasibility of these more eco-friendly growing methods.
Farmers will receive critically needed education to prevent and manage the effects of "witches’ broom" (Crinipellis perniciosa), a disease which has devastated cacao production and farming profits in recent years.
Farmers will be taught how to graft the cocoa trees with more disease resistant cocoa varieties, which will allow them to resume the cabruca system of growing.
"This partnership with Conservation International is imperative to ensure and enhance the economic, social and environmental sustainability of cabruca systems," said Mark Koide, Seeds of Change president. "Our work will help strengthen the cooperatives of small and medium cacao producers and help the transitions from conventional to sustainable agriculture, a crucial move to preserve the rainforests and stabilize the future of the cacao industry."
The Seeds of Change partnership with CI marks the company’s first global venture under its "One Percent Initiative," a philanthropic program the company created to dedicate one percent of its annual net sales to advance the cause of sustainable organic agriculture around the world.
The Institute for Social and Environmental Studies of Southern Bahia (IESB) and the State University of Santa Cruz (UESC) will provide valuable local support to this project.