Keeping Cacao Sustainable in Ecuador


Concern is growing that the desire for more predictable and profitable yields will result in the destruction of habitat and the degradation of the quality of Ecuador’s cacao in the long run. To address the problem, environmental organizations are working with government and industry to promote sustainable practices that will provide farmers the incentive to continue growing shade-grown native varieties instead of turning to hybrids.

The World Cocoa Foundation, a member-based organization comprised of the world’s major chocolate producers, partners with governments to promote sustainability. Some of the major chocolate companies such as Cadbury undertake their own efforts to help the cacao-producing countries improve the lives of cacao growers and implement benign cacao disease-control programs. Scientists are experimenting with the concept of establishing cacao plantations as buffer zones around forests, for the mutual benefit of the plantation and the habitat. The cacao sustainability movement has opened up new eco-tourism destinations to show visitors on Ecuador tours how cacao is grown and processed.

To prevent the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest, environmental organizations help the farmers to make cacao harvesting more profitable. The Rainforest Alliance and the Quito-based environmental organization, Conservacion y Desarrallo (CyD), have brought the farmers the necessary expertise to help implement sustainable practices that also increase their yield. It has organized the farmers into cooperatives so that they can sell their beans collectively without middlemen and share the costs of processing facilities.

Without the means to purchase mechanical dryers, many farmers are forced to sell their beans before drying them at a lower price than farmers who sell them dried. CyD supported the development of an inexpensive solar-powered dryer to enable the farmers to dry beans even in inclement weather conditions. As a result of this and other modifications in agricultural practices, yield and prices have increased. The organization has replicated its programs throughout Ecuador’s cacao growing regions.