According to a news release from the Worldwatch Institute, cocoa -- from which chocolate is made -- could help to save "one of the world’s most endangered rainforests, the Brazilian Atlantic Forest."
Here is a map of Amazon forests in South America (Credit: Link).
"Cocoa has serious potential for conservation because it is a high-value crop that can be grown under rainforest canopy," says Chris Bright, the lead author of "Venture Capitalism for a Tropical Forest." "Cocoa is shade-tolerant, so farmers don’t have to clear all their forest in order to make a living with it."
The Atlantic Forest biome extends along most of Brazil’s coast and accounts for 13 percent of the country’s area. The biome is considered a "biodiversity hotspot" -- a global priority for conservation -- because it is both highly diverse and highly threatened. For example, "old growth" Atlantic Forest has been found to contain as many as 476 tree species in a single hectare (about 2.5 acres). That’s the highest level of tree species diversity per unit area ever recorded anywhere on Earth. But only about 7 percent of the biome remains in its original state.
Here is a concise description of the project.
Cocoa is a major crop in Brazil, especially in the northeastern state of Bahia, where most cocoa is grown in a longstanding agroforestry system called cabruca. Because cocoa trees tolerate shade, cabruca permits preservation of much natural forest. But the cabruca system itself is now in decline. A revived and modernized form of cabruca would promote the ecological goal of forest restoration, the social goal of creating a strong and green rural economy, and the political goal of building an international consumer constituency for the endangered forest.
So, if you want to help save this forest, you have two choices: eat chocolate or buy the study for $5 from the Institute.
Source: Worldwatch Institute, December 4, 2003