The Future: Cacao Sustainability
What does the future of cacao sustainability hold? At BLYSS, we’ve always been concerned about chocolate, and we are especially concerned about the men and women that labour in farms around the world to grow the cacao that it is made from. Many cacao farmers have limited access to genetically improved planting material, resulting in their use of materials that are low-yielding or susceptible to loss from pests and diseases, from extreme weather events, and drought that have been growing problems throughout the last decade. This often results in great losses for them, and for the chocolate consuming world, as much as 30-40% cacao harvest have been reported lost in recent years. One solution to these problems is providing farmers with access to planting material that has been genetically modified to resist disease and is more hardy in the face of fluctuating weather conditions. This will make their crop genetically diverse, so that when they are faced with a certain threat, such as a specific disease or pest, then they don’t lose their entire crop because, hopefully, some of the new diverse population of plants have resistance to the new pest and can weather the storm, so to speak. Genetically diverse cacao plants are good; good for the livelihood of the farmers that depend on them, and good for the chocolate consuming world that depends upon the cacao that they grow.
So farmers need access to these genetically diverse plants. The problem is that traditionally these types of plants have only been available to wealthier countries that have the money and the facilities to do large scale research and development to produce them. But 90% of the world’s cacao is produced in tropical Africa, Asia, and Latin America which, typically, are not countries that have had large facilities to carry out the research and development of these types of genetically diverse plants for their farmers to use. Thus they have been missing out on a lot of these benefits when they so desperately need them.
This is where the Nagoya Protocol comes in to save the day. The Nagoya Protocol is a decision handed down by the Convention on Biological Diversity that is essentially dedicated to helping all countries get access to, and therefore the benefits from, genetic research. There is a lot involved in the Nagoya Protocol, but some of the most important parts of it are the tools and mechanisms that they are putting into place to ensure that all countries gain access to genetically diverse plants. They are committed to helping countries that need it develop facilities for research and development, to the free sharing of research between countries, technological development, and financial aid, among many other things. There is a lot more to the Nagoya Protocol, which you can read about here, but the takeaway is that they are helping farmers produce sustainable crops, improving their crops, and improving their quality of life.
In the same spirit, an organisation called The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Resources has come together and developed their Multilateral System. The Multilateral System essentially is a way to give countries that sign up access to their bank of genetic material for 64 of the world’s most important crops. By doing this they hope to facilitate research, innovation, and allow all member countries free and unfettered access to important genetic resources. They have also set up a fund to support conservation and continued agricultural development.
We wanted to take a little time to today to tell you about the different programmes and organisations that have been dedicated to assisting all countries to produce heartier and healthier crops, and to greatly improve the livelihoods of the men and women all over the world that tend them. We have great hope that these programmes and others like them will ensure that cacao, and the people that farm it, are around for many generations to come.
Convention on Biological Diversity: About the Nagoya Protocol
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture