Case Study: Eco Cacao

Case Study: Eco Cacao

About the project

practice
Agroforestry
biome
Tropical forests
geographic region
Ecuador

About the project

In the initial phase of this pilot, we are partnering with high-end chocolate brands in California such as Imlak’esh Organics and Endorfin Foods, as well as Eco Cacao and its parent organization UOPRACAE, a co-operative of approximately 120 farmers from the Esmeraldas region in Ecuador. We hold the intention of scaling this effort to thousands of cacao farmers worldwide.

Our partner in running this pilot is Terra Genesis International, who has been helping Eco Cacao train their farmers on regenerative practices and establish the first regenerative cacao certification.

Ecological context

Abundant monoculture crops to supply high global demand, severely degraded land and ecosystem.

Challenges

    High global demand for chocolate has led to highly-degrading monocrop cacao production that creates deforestation, runoff, and soil erosion.
    Regenerative growing methods, for example cover crops, agroforestry, and crop diversification, can combat the problems of unsustainable production, but is often too expensive for local farmers to implement, and furthermore, their impact often goes unrecognized and uncompensated.
    Unlike Organic and Fair Trade standards, there are no well-established regenerative agriculture standards nor verification methods necessary to get buyers on board for paying premiums that compensate and motivate farmers to adopt regenerative practices.

Regen Network approach

Verification of claims. Example: “The xx parcel is polyculture cacao”

Remote sensing verification

details

Using remote sensing based algorithms provided by Regen Network, Eco Cacao can verify their implementation of polyculture vs. monoculture practices within cacao farms. Additionally, other land cover classes related to land use management and ecosystems health can now be identified with high accuracy, and provide additional insights into each farm’s vegetation cover.

results

Qualitative: Detection of cacao monoculture vs. polyculture, primary and secondary tropical forests, mangroves, monoculture of African palm, Balsa and Teak, open water, constructions and other land uses. Quantitative: The area (i.e. number of hectares) per land cover class within each farm is identified with a 93% overall accuracy.

what's next

Project-based funding and premium payment for high quality regeneratively grown cacao.

Mono vs. Polyculture Cacao: Machine learning coupled with sentinel 2 time series allows for distinguishing polyculture from monocultures, primary forest, secondary forest, and other land uses.
Mono vs. Polyculture Cacao: Machine learning coupled with sentinel 2 time series allows for distinguishing polyculture from monocultures, primary forest, secondary forest, and other land uses.

Project-based funding via Regen Registry + Regen Ledger

details

Creating a project on Regen Registry and storing monitoring data as immutable records on Regen Ledger which provides an important layer of transparency and accountability to funders.

results

Project page on Regen Registry targeted to go live in Q4. Regen Ledger integration to be added in subsequent phase.

what's next

Creating a dedicated carbon offset methodology for tropical agroforestry systems and offering carbon offsets as additional revenue stream to premiums; Launching the Project Page on Regen Registry and getting much needed funds to these cacao growers!

Conclusion

Remote sensing is a cost-effective way to verify regenerative practices within tropical agroforestry systems on a large scale. Further, using project-based funding with bespoke verification can provide an alternative route to funding this important regenerative work. This work supports the financial well-being of farmers and producers, and the viability of communities in Ecuador where cacao producers often struggle with low margins, pressure from development, and increasing climate-related risks and costs. This project incentivizes a shift towards ecologically sound practices, resulting in healthy land, cleaner water, cleaner air, and the mitigation of climate change.

Future program development will focus on streamlining the verification process, growing market demand for regenerative cacao and creating incentives for landscape-scale regeneration based on a broader suite of land management practices inclusive of conservation and restoration priorities as well as diverse forms of regenerative agricultural production.

Conclusion

Remote sensing is a cost-effective way to verify regenerative practices within tropical agroforestry systems on a large scale. Further, using project-based funding with bespoke verification can provide an alternative route to funding this important regenerative work. This work supports the financial well-being of farmers and producers, and the viability of communities in Ecuador where cacao producers often struggle with low margins, pressure from development, and increasing climate-related risks and costs. This project incentivizes a shift towards ecologically sound practices, resulting in healthy land, cleaner water, cleaner air, and the mitigation of climate change.

Future program development will focus on streamlining the verification process, growing market demand for regenerative cacao and creating incentives for landscape-scale regeneration based on a broader suite of land management practices inclusive of conservation and restoration priorities as well as diverse forms of regenerative agricultural production.

We see Regen Network as an operational partner not just for our current shared projects, but for the work to plan, establish, manage, and monitor regenerative land management systems around the world.

luke smith
Director of Regenerative Agriculture & Supply, Terra Genesis International

We see Regen Network as an operational partner not just for our current shared projects, but for the work to plan, establish, manage, and monitor regenerative land management systems around the world.

luke smith
Director of Regenerative Agriculture & Supply, Terra Genesis International