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Cocoa farming in Brazil has grown significantly in recent years, driven by the local and worldwide demand for chocolate. This growth, however, poses significant challenges for family farmers who have traditionally grown cocoa in the Amazon region.

The Amazon region, which is the point of origin of cocoa, with its rich biodiversity and favourable climate, is an ideal place for growing cocoa. Production in the region has grown significantly in recent years, driven by the expansion of farmland and the adoption of sustainable management technologies, such as the Agroforestry System (SAF). This surge in cocoa production is a result of the increasing demand for ethically sourced beans, the availability of farmland, and the good reputation of Brazilian cocoa on the world stage.

Family farming plays an essential role in cocoa production in the Amazon. Small rural producers, often living in settlement areas or traditional communities, have a greater propensity for sustainable production. In general, this is not a result of their easy access to sustainable technologies, but rather to their need to adapt caused by the lack of such access. This is particularly true of family farming, which traditionally preserves the forest and biodiversity through Agroforestry Systems, often without even being aware of this term and production technology. These families have a profound understanding of the local environment and know how to adopt sustainable practices rooted on empirical knowledge. They respect the natural resources, thereby, ensuring product quality and maintaining biodiversity. As such, family farming has the potential to drive major socio-environmental developments in the production chain since it represents the largest cocoa producer group in the Amazon.

Despite their crucial role, family farmers face a number of challenges when it comes to cocoa production in the Amazon. A few of the main challenges are:

- difficulties in securing credit, technical assistance and quality agricultural inputs. The lack of funds and suitable technical support limits their ability to invest in improving production and infrastructure.

- challenges involved in selling products. The profit margins of local co-ops are impacted by management hurdles, a limited number of direct buyers in the industry, restricted access to quality cocoa markets, and the prevalent influence of middlemen. In addition, the recognition of cocoa from the Amazon is still a challenge, particularly in a market dominated by consolidated companies and brands.

- constant pressure from illegal deforestation in the Amazon and other detrimental practices such as illegal mining. The pervasive practice of extensive cattle ranching and low- tech farming puts pressure on and threatens cocoa growing areas, both through direct loss of land and indirect impacts, such as changes in the rainfall patterns and in the ecosystem.

In order to overcome these challenges, a series of initiatives have been put in place to support family farming in cocoa production. Many institutions are currently developing support activities. Here is a list of a few that aim to maintain and encourage family farming in the region:

a) Funding programs: Access to easier credit and specific financing lines for family farmers can help overcome the lack of financial resources and boost investments in production.

b) Technical assistance: Training and specialised technical support are key to improving agricultural practices, regenerating degraded soils and boosting productivity. Training, courses and knowledge exchanges can enhance the skills of family farmers.

c) Certifications and traceability: quality and sustainable origin certifications can open doors to more demanding markets, ensuring fair prices for producers and enhancing the resilience of co-ops. Tracking systems, guarantees of sustainable labour and zero deforestation will also soon become mandatory points for sales. Cocoa traceability also enables consumers to identify products that originate from family farms and will increase their value.

d) Partnerships and co-ops: The creation of partnerships between family farmers, co- ops and other stakeholders in the production chain can boost their negotiation capacity and make the products more competitive.

e) Environmental conservation: Efforts aimed at environmental conservation, such as the protection of forest areas and the development of sustainable production practices, are crucial in ensuring the sustainability of cocoa production in the Amazon.

The future of the relationship between cocoa production, family farming and the Amazon depends on an integrated approach that recognises the importance of family farming, promotes the appreciation of cocoa sourced from the Amazon and strengthens support mechanisms for farmers. It is essential to invest in public policies that can raise funds, encourage the creation of fair markets and encourage the adoption of sustainable practices. In addition, raising consumer awareness about the origin of products and their responsibility for preserving the Amazon is key to ensuring demand for sustainably produced cocoa.

Only through an integrated and collaborative approach will it be possible to promote the development of family farming, the conservation of the Amazon and cocoa production, while preserving the region's rich biodiversity and cultural traditions.

Vit França

Vitor França

Project and Services Coordinator at Imaflora - Institute of Forestry and Agricultural Management and Certification



Image by Rodrigo Flores
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