The most important causes in the current loss of biodiversity are the destruction and alteration of habitats. The United Nations reports that 80% of species decline is a result of habitat destruction.
Comprising only 30% of the global land area, forests are home to the majority of the Earth's species. Vast segments of the world's forests have already been destroyed, including close to half of all tropical rainforests.
Conservation and management of shade canopy agriculture supports tropical forest biodiversity while providing a lucrative crop for the agricultural community.
An indigenous crop that can often survive hurricanes and other adverse weather, cocoa serves as a strong component of the tropical forest canopy. Cacao evolved to grow in the shade of the heavy rainforest environment. In Grenada it is often cultivated under nutmeg and banana trees and other high overhead shade trees. Cacao doesn’t require open land for cultivation; in fact, it requires the shade of the jungle to grow. This naturally fertile habitat provides an ecological “resistance” to disease, and is home to midges, small moisture-loving insects that are the cacao flower’s sole pollinator.
In large plantations very low pollination rates contributes to an increased use of fertilizers and pesticides. By contrast, on the smaller farms pollinating insects move into the fields from the surrounding forest. There may be fewer cacao trees, but the trees are healthier. Higher pollination means a higher yield. Higher yields and healthier trees mean less cost to the growers. This diverse growing environment also provides a habitat similar to the natural rainforest for birds, lizards, and insects.
CFFI in Grenada
CFFI is dedicated to environmental stewardship, protecting biodiversity on the island of Grenada as well as supporting the farming community. By supporting the cocoa crop CFFI strengthens the interdependence of all of Grenada's agriculture.
Although Grenada produces less than a fraction of 1% of the world's cocoa, it is some of the world's highest quality cocoa. The cocoa beans grown on Grenada are considered "flavor beans" and are known for their distinctive taste and flavor notes. CFFI wants to promote and raise the market awareness of this exclusive and valuable commodity. By assisting the local farmer and educating the consumer as to the value of Grenada cocoa, CFFI strives to secure the highest market share for the farmer.
Farmers often say that the best way to protect farmland is to ensure that farming is profitable.
In Grenada as in many Caribbean countries the individualized farming of cocoa is still a loosely organized, labor intensive effort with little technological support. Many farmers grow cocoa as they have for generations, with little training in how to improve productivity and earnings from this critically important cash crop.
There is increasing value in the global market for products that are certified as sustainably produced. On a local scale, governments and NGO’s, such as CFFI, are working with farming communities to encourage low-impact agricultural activities such as shade farming. Both farms and Cocoa Processing Stations encourage ecotourism and consequently provide educational opportunities for the local community as well as generate related service-sector economies. Just as importantly, they provide employment for generations to come.