The Regenerative Cacao extends from Esmeraldas province in the northwest of Ecuador along the pacific coast of Colombia to Panama’s Darién gap. It is one of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots and, in Ecuador, is one of the areas with the highest rate of deforestation, driven mostly by the palm oil and cacao agroindustries. The area of focus for this project is the last remaining coastal Chocó rainforest in the country.
Terra Genesis’ history with cacao producers in Esmeraldas dates back a decade and is the context in which we co-developed the world’s first Regenerative Cacao supply system. The project consists of three dimensions:
- A partnership with 400 farmers of the Unión de Organizaciones de Productores de Cacao Arriba Esmeraldas (UOPROCAE) in Esmeraldas, Ecuador, to develop regenerative cacao production systems inspired by local communities’ traditional knowledge and culture and nested within diverse forested landscapes,
- The development of a buyer group composed of US-based superfood and chocolate companies keen to integrate regenerative cacao into their supply systems, and
- The development of a regenerative outcome verification system that allows both growers and buyers to monitor and verify the positive environmental and social impacts of the cacao that is produced.
Building on traditional knowledge and the social technology of ‘’minga’’, Terra Genesis and local partner organization Fundacion Cusumbí developed a pilot program, introducing new on-farm approaches for regenerative agriculture practices like biofertilizers, integrated pest management, terracing and strategic land management for conservation and restoration. The combination of these new technologies and traditional practices helps the farmers grow cacao in a way that increases yields, improves soil, sequesters carbon, increases resilience to extreme weather events, and promotes the revitalization of biodiversity.
Following development of a proof of concept, on-the-ground partners were supported to scale the project by expanding the size of the test group practicing regenerative cacao production.
We, in collaboration with Regen Network, developed a regenerative cacao verification system that allows cacao buyers (and their consumers) to know exactly what impacts the chocolate they are purchasing has on the production landscape, and the communities of cacao farmers living and working there. This system goes beyond many traditional measures of sustainability and responsible land use.
It assesses impact in real time by using on-the-ground data collection processes as well as geospatial and remote sensing technologies to verify regenerative outcomes, rather than solely certifying best practices.
This work began at The Galeria-San Francisco Landscape, which contains a significant percentage of UOPROCAE’s farmers, and has become one of the 1000 Landscapes for 1 Billion People initiative.