Wild Chocolate in Bolivia

The tree that gives us chocolate is native to the Amazon rain forests. It has long been domesticated and planted commercially in hot, humid climates around the world. But the "wild" cacao beans are still harvested from natural Amazon forests, such as those in Northern Bolivia. CSF helped local communities and our partners at Conservation International assess the Bolivian market for wild rain forest chocolate.

Presently, protected areas in Bolivia are threatened by an increasing pressure from loggers and farmers. Cacao generates income for local people and contributes to conservation of natural resources. Wild cocoa is produced within the Madidi National Park and its surroundings, as well as the communal lands of Pilon Lajas. Most of this cocoa is currently marketed in bean form. In 2009, Conservation International, in coordination with Sustainable Social Development in Bolivia (DESBOL) and BREICK company, developed experimental chocolate bars made from the wild cocoa beans from the community of Carmen del Emero, located near Madidi.

Our project aimed to test the feasibility of these chocolate bars in the domestic market. First, a mechanism was designed to affect optimal distribution of benefits among the workers in an expanded cacao market. This mechanism would see that increase cacao production actually met the economic needs of local workers.

Preliminary results demonstrate demand of at least 29,400 tablets of chocolate a month just in the city of La Paz. Based on the estimated demand and the proven existence of wild stands in the region, the number of families who would be eligible to participate and benefit from resource extraction would increase from 52 to 288. Participation could multiply household income substantially, contributing both to the consolidation of wild cocoa as a strategic product and further conservation objectives in this biologically important area.

This project was funded by PIEB - Bolivia. To download the full document, click here: http://www.conservation-strategy.org/en/publication/del-cacao-silvestre… An overview of the project is attached below.