Did you know?
Prior to the creation of the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund (HCP), to test the theory and system of what became HCP, Beyond Good sent samples of their trees in Madagascar for genetic testing. Consequently, USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) found the genetics to be an ancient variety thought to be extinct and…..HCP was ‘born’!
Through this original study and our 15th designation of Akesson’s Bejofo Estate, there is significant proof that there is outstanding cacao to be identified and preserved in Madagascar. And, it is only fitting that we have returned in partnership with Beyond Good and Akesson’s to identify it.
In partnership with the TSIRO Alliance, the HCP has supported the collection of 11 samples for submission to the HCP throughout the Ambanja region of Madagasacar. The samples are at Guittard Chocolate, being processed in to liquor and chocolate for flavor analysis by the HCP tasting panel in hopes that we will identify another Heirloom Designee. As with all samples submitted to HCP, the Madagascar samples are being anonymously and uniformly processed.
Furthermore, through our longstanding partnership with USDA-ARS, genetic analysis is being conducted on all samples and the data will be utilized in the second part of our activity – conducting a designation modeling exercise for Heirloom Designation.
Cacao Consultant and Cie (CCC) was contracted by HCP to implement a designation modeling study using Madagascar as a model to research and establish a more effective and efficient designation process for the HCP. The team is led by Cacao Expert Philippe Bastide and includes Djibrila Raimi, an expert in the diagnosis of socio-technical systems in developing countries; Adamainty Jean Florent, local Malagasy expert and Simon Bassanaga, expert in producer organization and cacao quality.
“Madagascar is the perfect – most challenging place” said Philippe “if you can establish a designation model here – you can establish it anywhere.”
The CCC team conducted 6 exploratory missions over the past year and a half to Madagascar to collect data and information on farmers in the Sambirano Valley within the District of Ambanja and the Southeast region which are the project areas for the TSIRO Alliance. Priority areas for the project include the Tsaratana Forest Corridor (COMATSA) and the Fandriana-Vondrozo Forest Corridor (COFAV) – as they are important ecological zones under threat.
In terms of their study, the CCC team are taking into consideration two main areas impacting the production of cacao:
The TSIRO Alliance is part of USAID’s “HEARTH” Global Development Alliance program, a growing suite of cross-sectoral public-private partnerships for people and the planet. TSIRO is a collaboration between USAID and private-sector partners including Catholic Relief Services, the Fine Chocolate Industry Association, Beyond Good Chocolate, Guittard Chocolate, Sahanala, Akesson Organics, and the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund. Each partner contributes their technical expertise, local and international networks, and strong connection to the cocoa value chain in Madagascar to the project. All partners share the same goal of producing fine cacao and chocolate that will benefit local Malagasy communities and the unique forests that surround them. While the TSIRO partners take different roles in the Alliance, they share the common goals of strengthening local farming systems and biodiversity while educating the public.
To learn more about the TSIRO Alliance visit https://www.makeminefine.com/tsiro-alliance-in-madagascar/
LESLEY FAMILY FOUNDATION GRANT
Funded by the Lesley Family Foundation, the Heirloom Cacao Preservation fund (HCP) supported the development of the first comprehensive clonal garden of heirloom cacao varieties in Hawaii; distributing over 1,000 grafted heirloom trees in 2022-2023.
Lead by Dan O’Doherty of Cacao Services, Inc., Kamananui Estate in Oahu, HI, is producing hand-pollinated full sibling progeny of heirloom types such as Nacional and locally selected hybrids from Heirloom designated populations. The data collection on an expanded number of Heirloom cacao varieties was compiled into a catalog Hawaii Guide to Heirloom Varieties of Cacao (to be released in 2024, stay tuned!).
Hawaii is a very small producer of cacao on a world-wide scale, but has received recognition for high quality and unique flavor profile via an Heirloom designation and several Cocoa of Excellence (COE) awards. Because Hawaii does not suffer from devastating fungal diseases such as frosty pod or witches’ broom, there is a unique opportunity to grow a wide range of varietals without high loss from disease.
Genotyping performed by the United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) has revealed high diversity in Hawaiian populations, with many trees being Upper Amazon Hybrids, Upper Amazon x Trinitario hybrids, or classic Trinitario, but also a number of ancient Criollo cultivars.
Historically, there have been no clonal gardens or germplasm collections in Hawaii that maintain cacao for distribution that have received Heirloom designations, but now Kamanaui Estate with support from HCP through the Lesley Family Foundation grant, has become a fully operational and has been providing material for the rest of the state.
In addition to a continuing commercial cacao production and supplying propagative material for other growers, Kamananui Estate will continue to test existing heirloom clones and develop new varieties through breeding and selection. Now that the farm is reaching maturity, it will be used as a demonstration farm for new growers and international groups through Ecole Chocolat to provide training on cacao farm development and post-harvest practices.