“The Sweet Taste of Agroforestry: How Agroforestry and Food Forests are Revolutionizing the craft chocolate Industry.
Chocolate lovers: brace yourselves. The craft chocolate industry is growing and here to stay, and not just because of how improved the taste of craft chocolate is if you compare it with mass produced chocolate, but also because the impact that craft chocolate is having on the environment is huge. Thanks to agroforestry and food forests, the production of handmade chocolate is becoming more sustainable and eco-friendly – and the world is noticing it.
Not only people are now interested in finding the different aromas that certain cacao beans might have, but it is also beginning to open a whole new sector of travel: nowadays conscious cacao growers are interested in people visiting their farms, showing and teaching how running a business and caring for the environment are not two mutually exclusive activities.
Agroforestry is the practice of integrating trees and agriculture on the same land. This not only helps to improve soil health and biodiversity, but it also provides a source of income and food sovereignty for farmers. In chocolate production, agroforestry is important because it is an effective way to grow cacao trees under the shade of a canopy created by other species, which helps to improve the quality of the chocolate.
Agroforestry also allows farmers to grow other crops alongside the cacao trees, which can provide additional income and food security for populations that have traditionally been neglected. Another important input from agroforestry becoming more and more common is that nowadays farmers are finally understanding that there is no need to cut down the forest in order to farm one single product.
Agroforestry uses analog forestry, which is a farming method that seeks to mimic natural ecosystems by introducing species that are not endemic to the area where the system is being implemented. While local heirloom species are prioritized, there is a space to introduce similar plants that have the same roll on the soil but that would provide food for the people living off of it. In Mashpi Shungo the best example is Salak.
Salak, or snake fruit, is a fruit endemic to Indonesia and not native to Latin America, but since it grows out of a palm, we are able to use Salak palms to perform the roll that the soil needs, while we get a delicious fruit to eat and work with.
Analog forestry also emphasizes the use of traditional, non-mechanized tools and techniques, such as hand-tilled soil and cover crops, as well as the integration of livestock and crop rotation to build soil health and fertility. Analog agriculture also prioritizes the use of local and heirloom seed varieties, and shuns the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers.
The goal of analog agriculture is to create a closed-loop, self-sustaining system that mimics natural ecosystems and relies on natural processes to maintain fertility and productivity.
Read our related blog: An Introduction to Sustainable Craft Chocolate
Another term that we use often in Mashpi Shungo is Syntropic agriculture, which refers to an approach that focuses on creating mutually beneficial relationships between different plant species, using techniques like agroforestry and companion planting to create a diverse and dynamic ecosystem within the agricultural landscape.
This can lead to greater yields, improved soil health, and reduced dependence on chemical inputs. Syntropic agriculture also aims to mimic natural systems, such as the way a forest ecosystem self-regulates and regenerates, in order to create a more sustainable and regenerative agricultural system.
This method of farming is gaining popularity as an alternative to traditional industrial agriculture, which is often criticized for its negative impact on the environment and public health.
Food forests, on the other hand, are a type of agroforestry system where a diverse range of food-producing trees, shrubs, and plants are grown together to mimic a natural forest ecosystem. This not only creates a more resilient and sustainable food system, but it also provides a habitat for wildlife and helps to mitigate climate change.
By using agroforestry and food forests in the production of handmade chocolate, farmers are able to produce high-quality chocolate that is both delicious and sustainable.
And because these practices often involve organic farming methods, the chocolate is not only free from harmful chemicals and pesticides, but the land where it is produced becomes a natural corridor for species, providing landing zones for migratory species and a stable environment for native species.
Next time you’re looking for a sweet treat, pay attention to where the cacao that became that chocolate came from, choose chocolate that is produced using agroforestry and food forests and that empowers people who are interested in caring for their environment.
Not only will you be supporting small businesses, many families, and sustainable and eco-friendly practices, but you’ll also be enjoying some of the best-tasting chocolate around. “