Madécasse will improve the livelihoods and ecological environment of cocoa growers in Madagascar by providing training and resources to 15 farmers to plant at least 3,000 new, intercropped cacao trees. Madécasse staff will train growers and provide resources needed for improved drying and fermenting techniques. These resources include providing cocoa tree seedlings and building drying platforms and fermentation boxes. Madécasses work so far has demonstrated that these interventions will substantially increase the incomes of farmers and their families. Madécasse will also provide farm management training that includes intercropping in the propagation of heirloom cacao trees, making the cacao trees more resilient, establishing additional cash crops for farmers alongside cacao, and establishing natural habitat for forest species. At least 1,000 new cacao trees will be added each year using cuttings from high-quality cacao stock across the Sambirano Valley and through the Madagascar governments agricultural research station in Ambanja. These interventions will generate greater income for the farmers, and also have an environmental impact. These trees will be planted on currently open farmlandland that is already owned by the farmers and is either unused or occupied by less environmentally friendly crops.
Finally, Madécasse will work with Conservation International to conduct a study of the impact of their cacao propagation on mouse lemurs, an endangered species indigenous to Madagascar that lives in cacao trees. Madécasse is interested in understanding whether new cacao production creates a natural habitat for this species, and whether it would allow more of this rare species to be reintroduced the environment.
8/1/16- status/count of cacao trees to date, identification of new farmers, identify partner for study of rare species
10/1/16- status/count of cacao trees to date, education of new farmers underway
1/1/17- 500 cacao trees intercropped, five farmers educated, study of rare species underway (partner pending)
4/1/17- status/count of cacao trees to date, identify new farmers
7/1/17- status/count of cacao trees to date, education of new farmers underway
10/1/17- status/count of cacao trees to date, education of new farmers underway
1/1/18- 2000 cacao trees intercropped, ten farmers educated, study of rare species complete (partner pending)
4/1/18- status/count of cacao trees to date, identify new farmers, begin to incorporate rare species into cacao trees (partner pending)
7/1/18- status/count of cacao trees to date, education of new farmers underway
10/1/18- status/count of cacao trees to date, education of new farmers underway
12/31/18- 3000 cacao trees intercropped, 15 farmers educated, completion of rare species incorporation (partner pending)
Rural cacao farmers in Madagascar are not realizing the full market potential of Madagascars high-quality cacao; many farmers are producing low quality cocoa, which commands a cheaper price, and most farmers have never received technical training or access to the tools needed to maximize production of their crop or to maintain their crop through post-harvest handling techniques. In a country where the average person earns $1.30 per day, farmers would earn higher income with improved production and storage methods, and with more control over the value chain. In addition to providing these skills, there is an opportunity to promote integrated farming with better productivity and environmental outcomes, by combining cacao tree planting alongside other crops like bananas, citrus, vanilla, and black pepper. This allows for increased resiliency of crops and longer term mixed ecological make up of farmland. Cacao is a shade crop, meaning that it needs other trees and plants growing around it in order for it to thrive. When cacao is planted this way with other crops it enables farmers to grow crops year round rather than depending entirely on the cocoa harvest, providing a more consistent and secure income. This intercropping also has the potential to create expanded natural habitat for biodiverse animal species.
Madécasse is one of the only companies selling chocolate in Western markets that is produced from bean to bar in a country of cacao origin. Cocoa is typically exported as a raw product leaving very little of the chocolates economic value in the country where the cocoa comes fromthe higher value processing and manufacturing stages are conducted in higher-income countries. When the chocolate is made at origin, jobs are created where they are needed most, and the economic impact is greater. Less tangible but equally important is the pride and ownership that local communities can derive from manufacturing a high-value final good.
Madécasses focus on grassroots needs of growers includes not only understanding and engaging in agricultural extension efforts, but working to enable and empower growers and communities to address other needs that include market linkages, funding opportunities, infrastructure, and education- and health-related projects. Economic growth and value-add in the country of origin allows for development of the cacao sector in Madagascar, the agricultural sector in general, and the value-added efforts that go beyond sourcing a single commodity and exporting it to a developed country.