April 05, 2022

What is Regenerative Cacao?

By Jerry Toth

Cacao trees are naturally adapted to survive and thrive in the understory of tropical forest. In other words, they grow well in the shade of bigger trees. Therein lies the advantage of cacao farming in the realm of tropical forest restoration.

Cacao trees can be planted in combination with a diverse array of other food-producing trees and native trees. That’s what agroforestry is—it’s an agricultural method that grows crops in the form of a forest.

an illustration of cacao agroforestry - cacao trees are growing beneath the shade of other species of trees in the forest

Regenerative agroforestry uses this principle as a mechanism for forest restoration. One of the benefits of this approach is a net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. Other happy byproducts include soil conservation, watershed protection, and biodiversity preservation.

The cacao that is harvested from a regenerative agroforestry system is called Regenerative Cacao.

This is how To’ak and its rainforest conservation partners are restoring forests and improving livelihoods in Ecuador. For a deeper dive, check out Using Cacao to Reverse Deforestation.

Unfortunately, most cacao farms in the world today are managed as monocultures, usually at the cost of deforestation. To learn more, check out How Eco-Friendly is Cacao Farming? 

Cacao farmer Dany is harvesting a single cacao pod hanging from its branch

Definitions

  • Agroforestry: Cultivating crops in the form of a forest.
  • Cacao Agroforestry: Agroforestry that includes cacao trees grown in the shade of bigger trees.
  • Regenerative Agroforestry: Using agroforestry as a mechanism to restore forest on degraded land.
  • Regenerative Cacao: Cacao that is harvested from a regenerative agroforestry system.

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