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Cocoa producers in the Amazon want to compete globally, while protecting tropical forests

Scientists hope to turn the cocoa crop into a tool for reforestation.

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RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (19 June 2012)__ Cocoa producers in the Brazilian Amazon are looking for ways to compete in the global market while protecting plush tropical forests. But experts say developing a strategic plan to sustainably produce the crop in degraded areas, the current goal, will require additional funding and technical expertise.

Eduardo Trevisan Goncalves from the Institute of Forest Management and Certification Fund (Imaflora) said his organization is already working with the local government in one municipality in Para state to help  ‘green’ farmers improve their products so they can become competitive cocoa suppliers for markets in this massive chocolate-loving nation,  and eventually overseas.

But the northern state is huge, spanning more than 1 million sq. kilometers, he noted. Its demands are great and resources limited.

“We are working to convert degraded areas into cocoa agroforestry systems,”  Trevisan said during a side event at the Rio+20 summit. In doing so, scientists hope the crop will be transformed into a “tool for reforestation.”

Rainforests, often called the lungs of the planet for their role in absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen, also contribute to the livelihoods of more than a quarter of the world’s population. The Poverty Environment Network says the forests generate around one fifth of the total household income of neighboring communities. By studying efforts of those living in and nearby forests to use their resources in multiple and sustainable ways, scientists hope to unravel valuable lessons about both conservation and poverty alleviation.

A recent study by CIFOR looked at the opportunities and limitations of sustainably producing nuts and timber in the Brazilian Amazonia. As was the case in Para, forest people looking for answers often ran into policy, economic, and technical barriers, it found.

Scientists also studied timber and nut production in the frontier regions of  Madre de Dios in Peru and Pando in Bolivia. There as in Brazil, they said, communities, industry officials, non-governmental organizations and local stakeholders often had different views on how to implement multiple-use forestry strategies

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