The legacy of cacao in Bahia is that it is cultivated under the shade of the forest canopy through the system know as “cabruca” and as such has helped protect the few remaining areas of the original Atlantic Rainforest, one of the most biodiverse regions of the world.
With proper management, this agroforestry system of crops and old growth shade trees protects endangered biodiversity, sequesters carbon from the atmosphere, provides a resilient ecosystem without the needs for excessive chemical inputs, and uses a diversity of crops for income and subsistence.
The Povos da Mata (PdM) small farmers organization in our region promotes the vision for agro-ecology and organic farming through accreditation from the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture for a group “participatory organic certification”. While this network is growing, there is a need for on the ground demonstration and education of cacao farmers on how they could increase their revenue through organic agro-ecological practices.
- Research, knowledge, and activation of success models and varietals for planting/cloning premium cacao on our farms.
- Inventory and mapping of overstory (shade-trees) and other ecosystem values as well as cacao stocks.
- Implement organic soil improvement practices.
- Pruning, cloning, hand pollinating.
- A pilot of agroforestry methods such as syntropic farming.
- Selection of companion crops for food, habitat, and soil nutrient value.
We kick off by developing a small scale reproducible model on Fazenda São Jorge, resulting in an easy to understand and logically illustrated manual for cacao reforestation.
Results of our efforts will be included in a shareable manual and education outreach including information on cacao varieties, fruit trees, graft and pruning technics, plantation management, fertilizing options, and ecosystem health.
We aim to lay a foundation for our area to inspire small farmers to modernize their cacao agroforestry with the continued help of volunteers and available resources, such as the Center for Cacao Innovation (CIC) in Ilheus and continued support from PvM.