Cocoa agroforestry in Brazil through a public-private partnership


Authors: Pedro Zanetti Freire Santos, Jens Hammer, Michele Santos, Noemi Siqueira and Rodrigo Mauro Freire

General - 2024

ISSUE No.: 62


Language: English


Historically, Brazil was a significant cocoa producer, primarily in the Amazon region, but since the 1970s, cocoa production became increasingly replaced by extensive livestock farming. What production remained, was halted by a fungal epidemic, resulting in Brazil becoming a net importer of cocoa beans. Thanks to recent sustainable development programmes and the emergence of the bioeconomy, Brazil has since experienced renewed interest in cocoa cultivation, especially in cocoa agroforestry. Initiatives such as Mondelez's Sustainable Cocoa Production project aim to promote sustainable cocoa production, with a focus on environmental regulations and good agricultural practices. The project focuses on two regions, Bahia and Pará.

In Bahia, efforts are directed towards rejuvenating cocoa crops in cabruca systems, a traditional agroforestry system where cocoa is cultivated beneath native tree canopies. Small-scale farmers received training and experimental plots demonstrated that proper management practices could control fungal disease and increase cocoa production significantly, generating increased income. In Pará, cocoa agroforestry systems are promoted as an alternative to cattle ranching, which destroyed forests to create, now degraded, pasturelands. While restoration efforts are challenging, agroforestry systems showed promising financial returns compared to cattle ranching. Local farmer organisations also benefitted from workshops and ongoing mentoring regarding their management and business capacities.

A failure of the project was that in some instances, agroforestry systems were promoted more as a way to produce cocoa than as an opportunity to diversify, which must be the priority. New due diligence initiatives in Europe have also highlighted the importance of traceability and sustainability in cocoa production, posing new challenges for Brazil’s small-scale farmers. The cocoa agroforestry systems in Bahia and Pará have, nonetheless, shown potential for sustainable local development in Brazil. To ensure their success and sustainability in the long term, there must be continued support systems for farmers and value must be ascribed to the immense product diversity of cocoa agroforestry. 

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