Supporting small scale farmers to restore Brazil’s forests and its sustainable cocoa industry.
Pará has the highest deforestation rate of all states in Brazil and the 1.2 million hectares it lost in the last five years was overwhelmingly driven by cattle ranching. Small scale farmers play a significant role in this; in South and South-eastern Pará, 40% of deforestation occurs on small farms.
A promising alternative for small ranchers has emerged in the form of cocoa. Cocoa is native to the Amazon and up until the 1990s Brazil was one of world’s top producers. That stopped when an outbreak of Witches’ Broom disease devastated crops and stunted production. Still one of the biggest chocolate consumers, Brazil imports large quantities of cocoa to run its cocoa grinder industry and satisfy local demand.
Cocoa production has been rising in Pará, and cocoa agroforestry on degraded pastureland offers a well-paying income alternative for small farmers and ranchers.
At the other end of the chain, demand for sustainable and ethical cocoa is growing in the chocolate sector. Big traders with ambitions to scale up global sustainability commitments are looking to Brazil to get there.
The Pará Cocoa Agroforestry project is an early-moving initiative working to develop a profitable agroforestry model that restores degraded lands. To do that, lead organisation the Nature Conservancy (TNC) – who has been pioneering cocoa agroforestry systems with farmers in the region since 2013 – forged a partnership with international cocoa companies Olam and Mondelez.
The chocolate industry giants will play an important role in piloting the project’s technical assistance hub. The hub is to be hosted by a local technical assistance company and will provide support services plus access to rural credit for small farmers to increase their sustainable production. In exchange for zero-deforestation and restoration commitments, farmers can get hub access and price premiums for their cocoa.
Partnerships for Forests (P4F) is supporting the pilot stage of the project to finance restoration training resources, develop monitoring systems for traceability and establish a network of trainers and demonstration units.
The project aims to address some of the most significant barriers to improving cocoa production in Pará and expects to increase average productivity by 50%. Zero-deforestation commitments and technical assistance for restoration will play an important role in helping producers meet their legal liabilities and protect Pará’s threatened forests.
Not only will the model secure better incomes and food security for farmers, it supports new roles and opportunities for women in farm management. A potential boost for rural development, such opportunities will also be incentives for family members to return from the city.
With P4F’s support, the Cocoa Agroforestry project aims be a catalyst and enabler in returning Brazil to its former status as a leading global cocoa producer, with a solid emphasis on sustainability.
© João Ramid
- Pará, Brazil
- The Nature Conservancy, Olam, Mondelez, Coordenada Rural Serviços e Projetos Ltda.
- Commodity focus
- Hectares under sustainable land use
- 25,000 (by 2020)
- Private investment mobilised
- £3,500,000 (by 2020)