Cacao, an Amazonian fruit


With trees that can reach up to 20 meters tall, the Theobroma species of cacao has been in the Amazon for at least 7,000 years. See the versions and characteristics of each type.

Initially, scientists thought that cacao first appeared in Central America some 3,000 years ago.

But, in 2013, a study found new traces in the Ecuadorian section of the Amazon, showing that the species has been in the biome for at least 7,000 years.

The exact date when this fruit, the raw material used to make chocolate, first arrived in Brazil is unknown. It is known that the golden age of cacao was the first half of the 20th century and that the country's export was equivalent to 25% of all world production.

Still, it was only in the late 1980s, when the crop was heavily affected by a fungus, did national production begin to lose steam. A blight known as the “Witch's Broom” spread and devastated entire plantations.

To resume production, the Executive Committee of Cacao Farming Plan was created to work for the sustainable rural development of cacao. Among the strategies employed is the use of mixed and/or cloned varieties, which are more resistant as a consequence.

Currently, there are three dominant varieties in Brazil: forastero, criollo and trinitario.

Forastero is the variety most commonly found in the Amazon and the world.

Criollo has large fruits that possess lots of pulp.

Trinitario, on the other hand, is the result of crossbreeding between forastero and criollo.

Currently, Brazil is the seventh biggest producer of cacao in the world. Despite its relatively good position, the country accounts for less than 5% of the planet's total production.

Several production initiatives are emerging in the Amazon. One of them is Cassiporé, in the municipality of Oiapoque, Amapá.

João Dorismar da Paixão set up a small factory and became a chocolate producer. The process is practically artisanal. In the harvest period, he works alongside 12 families from local communities.

We need to value these communities so that they can have opportunities for income and show that it's possible to live off of extractivism, off of the products of the forest, without cutting any trees down.

- João Dorismar Paixão

In addition to supporting the communities, cacao production has been pointed to by experts as a factor in reducing deforestation in the Amazon.

We've observed that on properties that have cacao, there is less deforestation than on properties that don't.

- Adriano Venturieri, an agronomist and researcher at Embrapa.

REPORTING Adele Santelli WRITTEN AND EDITED BY: Carolina Dantas PHOTOS Quartetto/AIPC; Nilmar Lage / Greenpeace; Valter Ziantoni e Mauro Rossi (Barro De Chão); congerdesign/Pixabay; Agência Fapesp; João Dorismar da Paixão VISUAL IDENTITY Clara Borges assembly Luiza Toledo TRANSLATION Matthew Rinaldi