Cocoa

New cocoa biofactory in Brazil will boost chocolate making in country

In a tent in the Surucuá community in the Brazilian Amazonian state of Pará, Jhanne Franco teaches 15 local adults how to make chocolate from scratch using small-scale machines instead of grinding the cacao beans by hand. As a chocolatier from another Amazonian state, Rondônia, Franco isn’t just an expert in cocoa production, but proof that the bean-to-bar concept can work in the Amazon Rainforest.

“[Here] is where we develop students’ ideas,” she says, gesturing to the classroom set up in a clearing in the world’s greatest rainforest. “I’m not here to give them a prescription. I want to teach them why things happen in chocolate making, so they can create their own recipes.” 

The training programme is part of a concept developed by the nonprofit Amazônia 4.0 Institute, designed to protect the Amazon Rainforest. It was conceived in 2017​ when two Brazilian scientists, brothers Carlos and Ismael Nobre, started thinking of ways to prevent the Amazon from reaching its impending “tipping point,” when deforestation turns the rainforest into a dry savanna.

Their solution is to build a decentralized bioeconomy rather than seeing the Amazon as a commodity provider for industries elsewhere. Investments would be made in sustainable, forest-grown crops such as cacao, cupuaçu and açaí​, rather than cattle and soy, for which vast swaths of the forest have already been cleared. The profits would stay within local communities.

A study by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the New Climate Economy, published in June 2023, analysed 13 primary products from the Amazon, including cacao and cupuaçu, and concluded that even this small sample of products could grow the bioeconomy’s GDP by at least $8 billion per year​.


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