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Chocolate Put in the Shade

BirdLife covers Brazil?s Atlantic Forest with chocolate

BirdLife has received US$2 million of European funding for its programme to restore the Atlantic Forest in Brazil’s Bahia region. The project combines forest conservation with long-term poverty reduction, aiming to produce shade-grown organic cacao to meet growing international demand for environment-friendly chocolate.

The Atlantic Forest once covered 1 million km2 of Brazil, but has been reduced to isolated fragments, particularly in the north-east where only 1-2% of the original habitat remains. Most of what survives is in southern Bahia, and is largely unprotected. The project area includes two Important Bird Areas (IBAs), the Una Biological Reserve and Serra das Lontras. These IBAs fall within Brazil’s Central Biodiversity Corridor, an area of high endemic biodiversity. A large number of endemic, globally threatened bird species occur within the region. Bahia is the primary cacao (cocoa) growing region in Brazil. The project aims to restore the traditional cabruca method, which uses the shade of native forest trees to protect the crop."The multi-layer structure of cabruca mimics natural forests, and creates buffers and biological corridors between fragments of Bahia’s remaining Atlantic Forest." Said jaqueline Goerck of Birdlife Brazil. >br>
Most of the two million people of the region depend on agriculture, but following a drop in world cacao prices in the 1980s, cabruca was progressively abandoned.

"As farmers convert to slash-and-burn agriculture, or environmentally destructive and economically unproven alternatives such as coffee and pasture, the remaining forest is being lost without any lasting benefits to the rural poor," She added. "With an upturn in the cacao market, the rejuvenation of cabruca lands using organic agroforestry offers an alternative source of sustainable income for the forest/farming communities."

The scheme will lead to an increase in protected forest, since organic certification requires growers to preserve or restore at least 20% of the forest habitat. The project will promote the creation of Reservas Particulares do Patrimônio Natural (Natural Heritage Private Reserves) in the Serra das Lontras-Una forest region.

The project will investigate and develop markets for cacao and other organic agroforestry products, and provide a local base for expansion of organic cacao-growing in southern Bahia and beyond.

4th July 2014