April 05, 2022

How Eco-Friendly is Chocolate and Cacao Farming?

By Jerry Toth

The eco-friendliness of cacao farming entirely depends on where and how the cacao trees are planted.

In the worst of cases, people cut down a native forest to make way for a monoculture plantation of cacao trees. In the context of both biodiversity and climate change, this is a bad outcome. Native forests store 4x as much carbon and 35x more species than cacao monocultures. 

Clearing forest to plant monocultures is how most new cacao plantations are created throughout the tropics. A lot of trees are being cut down in the name of chocolate.

Bar Chart Showing a Comparison of Native Forest, Cacao Agroforestry, and Cacao Monoculture at carbon sequestration with native forest showing the highest amount of carbon absorbed
 A Carbon Comparison of Native Forest, Cacao Agroforestry, and Cacao Monoculture (Source: ResearchGate)


Reversing Deforestation with Regenerative Agroforestry

Cacao farming is not intrinsically destructive to the environment. When planted in the context of a diverse agroforestry system, it can be a tool to regenerate deforested land.

Cacao trees are naturally adapted to survive and thrive in the understory of the tropical forest. Therein lies the advantage of cacao farming in the realm of forest restoration.

Cacao trees can be planted in combination with a diverse array of other food-producing trees and native trees. Regenerative agroforestry is the application of this method on degraded agricultural land. It becomes a mechanism for forest restoration. 

This is the basis for our work in Ecuador.

right image shows an open field filled with one species of tree (monoculture) left image shows cacao trees growing beneath the shade of various other species of trees in a dense forest
Cacao Monoculture (left) vs Regenerative Agroforestry (right)


Bad Outcome: Converting native forest into a cacao monoculture. This is deforestation.

Good Outcome: Converting cattle pasture or degraded agricultural land into a diverse polyculture of cacao combined with a variety of other trees. This is regenerative agroforestry.


Learn More

Check out Regenerative Cacao for a quick primer.

For a deeper dive into how To’ak and its rainforest conservation partners are using this method to reverse deforestation, go to Using Cacao to Reverse Deforestation. 


Related Posts

September 25, 2022

Conversations Over Cacao, Issue 002: Connecting With the Cosmos, Brian Keats, and More

In this second edition of Conversations Over Cacao, To'ak's CEO James Le Compte shares his personal journey in chocolate, astral calendar pioneer Brian Keats discusses our deep connection to the stars, and we share a few inspirations to help us better connect to ourselves, each other, and the cosmos.
Read More

By Stephanie Garr

September 16, 2022

An Expert Guide to the Finest Chocolate Pairings

The beauty of pairing chocolate with wine, spirits, or cheese is that it expands the range of flavor sensations. The key is finding the right match, both in terms of flavor and mouthfeel. It also depends on how you do it. Here is a complete guide, plus a list of our favorite chocolate pairing recommendations.
Read More

By Jerry Toth

July 29, 2022

Conversations Over Cacao, Issue 001: Summer Solstice, Charles Michel, and More

Here's the inaugural edition of Conversations Over Cacao:  A collection of thoughts, theories and traditions to bring us back to our senses.
Read More

By Stephanie Garr