Eat chocolate - protect the Masoala rainforest

by Hanspeter Huber

Good news for smallholder farmers, the environment and gourmets: Chocolats Halba has created two new project chocolates for Coop with a cocoa content of 82% and 76% respectively. For these chocolate specialities we use only the finest Madagascar cocoa - a rarity that has unmistakable flavours thanks to the unique soil and climate on the island.

The organic and Fairtrade certified chocolates come from the "Madagascar Project", with which we want to provide smallholder farmers with a secure livelihood and at the same time prevent the disappearance of Madagascar's forests. 90% of the island's forests are already cut down and many animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. The reasons: illegal trade in tropical timber, production of firewood, slash-and-burn for agriculture.

The "Madagascar Project" is a joint project of Chocolats Halba, Coop, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Helvetas Intercooperation and Zurich Zoo. Since 2018, we have been promoting the cultivation of fine cocoa through dynamic agroforestry, particularly in the region around the Masoala National Park. Cocoa grows almost like in the rainforest - in combination with fruits, vegetables and timber trees. Thanks to balanced cultivation, the soils are more fertile and the plants healthier. The farmers have higher cocoa yields and additional income thanks to the mixed plants. Nature also benefits: afforestation and climate protection, more biodiversity and less pressure on the forests.

In the project we train selected smallholder farmers in the methods of dynamic agroforestry. As farmer trainers, they pass on your knowledge to other cocoa producers. 300 farmers are to cultivate cocoa in sustainable mixed cultivation by 2023. Part of the project is also the establishment of a supply chain for mixed products (vanilla, clove, etc.) and cocoa processing in the Masoala region. The quantities of cocoa from this region are currently still low. For the time being, we are therefore using organic and Fairtrade-certified cocoa from Sambirano in the north of the island for the production of the project chocolates. There, too, we are promoting sustainable cocoa cultivation in dynamic agroforestry as part of the project.

Threatened by extinction: White-headed brown lemur in the Masoala region.

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