Chocolate and Biodiversity — A Sustainable Pairing

Rainforests in Africa, Asia and Latin America are home to some of the most unique animal and plant life on earth. As many of us know, these fragile ecosystems are under severe threat from illegal logging, hunting and agriculture. Unless better environmental protection measures are followed, many flora and fauna species will be lost forever. 

The humid tropic regions are also the only places where cocoa grows.  

Cocoa farming can be either destructive or helpful to the environment, depending on how the crop is cultivated. When cocoa is grown in forest reserves as a monoculture, it can deplete soils and destroy habitats.

lizard from Madagascar
Photo credit: BFREE

On the other hand, when grown responsibly, cocoa can provide a home to native plants and animals normally dependent upon tropical forest.  Russell Greenberg from the Smithsonian Migratory Birds Center writes that “this enhancement of biodiversity in the agricultural landscape occurs primarily on a local scaleā€”providing homes and food for more generalized forest species that are intolerant of pastures or farm fields.”    

The Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA) and our members are committed to making the best quality chocolate available in the market. Our companies equally care about protecting the environment where cocoa grows.  Here are two great examples:

Madagascar: FCIA member Beyond Good was featured in a recent article explaining how they are working with local researchers at the Bristol Zoological Society in Madagascar to protect habitat for Lemurs. Dr. Amanda Webber of the Bristol Zoological Society highlighted the conclusions from their research. “The findings are exciting as they suggest that these highly threatened animals can live in human-dominated areas and cacao could be an example of a crop that, when grown sustainably, has the potential to benefit wildlife and people.”

Photo credit: Beyond Good
Montezuma’s Oropendola
Photo credit: Wikimedia

Belize: FICA partner  BFREE Foundation in Belize is growing HCP designated criollo cocoa in a mixed agroforestry setting. BFREE Biological Field Station and Privately Protected Area is home to over 80 migratory and resident bird species including the Scarlet Macaw and Montezuma’s Oropendola. It is considered one of the most acclaimed birding sites in Belize.

The next time you purchase chocolate, take a moment to check where it was sourced. To order online fine chocolate from our member companies and learn more about the cocoa supply chain, please explore our Make Mine Fine website.

By Bill Guyton

Bill Guyton is the Executive Director of the Fine Chocolate Industry Association.