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History of the region’s Cacau-cabruca · Chronicles from Brazil

In 2020, hundreds of volunteers from all over the world helped us save an endangered land in the Sierra Bonita area of ​​Brazil (Google Maps +). Together, through TiME, we raised US$ 148,373 which helped Instituto Uiraçu organization – our partner in the area – to get down to work with the task of preserving a land of great natural interest for biodiversity.

We will talk in another post in more detail about the frenetic activity of Uiraçu to achieve its goals, but it does seem interesting to highlight here the fact that among its programs are the Ecosystem Defense Program, the Serra Bonita Reserve Complex Expansion Program and the Educational program in Environmental Education.

To detail them a little more:

  1. Program for the Defense of Ecosystems, whose main objective is to promote the management of the RPPNs of the Serra Bonita Reserve Complex for the protection of the forest and the various species that inhabit it. The RPPNs management model was developed with two focuses:
  2. The CRSB Expansion Program – focused on capturing resources for the acquisition of land and the creation of RPPNs, through annual campaigns, application for publishers, mapping of available properties and negotiation with owners of the region; and
  3. The Environmental Education Program – program of fundamental importance to ensure that the mission of conservation is passed for the next generation and is extended to all limits of the Serra Bonita Reserve. Acts in a transversal manner, supporting the other areas of action of the IU.

The educational approaches contemplate topics such as water resources, basic sanitation, strengthening of the Municipal Councils (Environment and Environmental Education), sustainable production (Cabruca and Agroecology System), conscious consumption,
biodiversity, climatic changes, weeding, among others.

In fact, Instituto Uiraçu (IU) was created in 2001 as a non-governmental organization. Operating in the local portion of the Atlantic Forest Central Corridor (CCMA), its mission is to preserve, protect, conserve and restore Brazilian Atlantic Forest ecosystems. The Institute’s current highest priority is to expand the CRSB over the next 10 years to 5,500 hectares through additional land acquisitions. Its director, Nira Fialho, passionately does her job, and when asked about the origins of the land she protects and the area to which she dedicates her energy, her eyes shine. She explains to us that the history of the region is closely linked to agriculture and the cultivation of chocolate. A crop that, in her words, since time immemorial has had an approach based on the preservation of biodiversity, both from a human and technical point of view. Thus, the history of these jungles is closely related to a way of understanding the relationship that people should have with nature.

History of Cacau-cabruca

Cocoa in southern Bahia (83 municipalities) began in 1746, after planting in the municipality of Canavieiras (80 km from Camacã). The region’s favorable climate and soil conditions allowed cocoa farming to thrive, gaining notoriety inside and outside Brazil.

Photo: © Cristiano S’antana  / Floresta de Cauca-cabruca 
Photo: © Instituto Uiraçu / Harpy cub
Photo: © Cristiano S’antana  / Floresta de Cauca-cabruca Photo: © Instituto Uiraçu / Harpy cub

Cabruca cocoa guarantees the generation of financial resources, keeps people in the field and preserves water resources and the fauna and flora, as well as the original tree fragments of inestimable value for agronomic, forestry and ecological knowledge. The environmental and economic benefits of these systems were achieved over 250 years of pragmatism and consolidation of a profitable territorial occupation model (LOBÃO 2007).

Photo: © Cristiano S’antana / Cacau-cabruca production

The disease, known as witches’ broom (Moniliophthora perniciosa), arrived in southern Bahia in 1989, bringing the biggest crisis ever to Brazilian cocoa farming and causing deformation, rotting and death of cocoa trees. Brazil, which became the second largest cocoa producer in the world, with crops of more than 400,000 tons in the mid-1980s, had its production reduced to around 100,000 tons in the 2000s.

The impacts were disastrous, both in terms of the drop in revenue and the indebtedness of farmers, as well as on the social scale (massive unemployment of farm workers). There were also environmental damages, as cocoa, being cultivated in the shade of remnants of the Atlantic forest, was an important factor for the preservation of this biome and with the crisis, many of the cocoa farms were replaced by coffee plantations and pasture, which implies in deforestation.

Several initiatives have been adopted since then. But the problem is not solved. Healthy plants coexist side by side with diseased plants. Bahia lost its primacy, being surpassed by Pará as the main producing state in the country. And Brazil ended 2020 with a total production of 250 thousand tons, ranking seventh in the world.

The production technique of cocoa-cabruca is an agroforestry production system that generates silvicultural, agroecological and environmental benefits that are highly valued in sustainable development.

Nira Fialho, Instituto Uiraçu (IU)

This technique generated a refined agricultural production model (cacau-cabruca), very advanced for the time and which evolved to the point of becoming a production system with sustainable agro-environmental advantages when compared to other agricultural production systems. Criteria are used that include patterns related to density (number and diversity of tree species per hectare), biometrics (to decide the desired shade intensity), vertical structure (to balance tree species by dominance, codominance and dominated) and floristic composition. or diversity of individuals.

Photo: © Cristiano S’antana

Bahia’s cocoa is linked to a conservationist culture, to a peculiar production and processing method, to its special cultivation and to a rich associated ethno-botanical knowledge. The cocoa has sensory notes of spices and dried and citrus fruits, attested by national and international experts and chocolatiers.

Photo: © Cristiano S’antana

Today, South Bahia cocoa is recognized (geographical identity – GI) for being a special product that generates savings with biodiversity conservation, protecting springs, forests and species of mammals, birds, amphibians, primates, and many other species depending on the system. production, called Cacau-Cabruca.

The few remaining fragments of the Atlantic Forest in southern Bahia are in Conservation Units or in the Cacau-cabruca System. The Cacau-cabruca is a unique, differentiated and extremely diversified ecosystem, recognized as the greatest wealth in the region capable of offering food security, family economy and protection of biodiversity throughout the southern region of Bahia.

Thank you so much, Nira, for telling the TiME family this beautiful story about the land we help save in 2020.

You can revisit our Serra Bonita Success description on the following page:

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