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DeMendes, Brazil

  • Definition
    Devising project idea, defining the aim and main components
  • Design
    Specifying details such as time-frame, budget, target indicators, project partners and relevant steps to reach the project objectives
  • Financing
    Searching and securing funding and investment, setting up relevant financing partnerships, and discussing payment modalities
  • Implementation
    Execution of feasibility studies, context analysis, plot design, planting and setting up facilities and starting with potential capacity-building
  • Maintenance
    Operational phase (monitoring and evaluation, impact assessments and adjustments, execution of educational programmes and long-term capacity building)
  • Scaling Up
    Scaling up phase is when the project it has already shown success by obtaining impact as well as economic results and it's ready to become replicable.

Known as the ‘golden fruit’, cocoa is considered a possible antidote to the invasion of the Northern Brazil’s indigenous lands by illegal miners. With the help of agroforestry, local Ye’kwana and Yanomami community leaders will produce chocolate for international markets as an income alternative diminishing the need for the indigenous youth to collaborate with illegal miners. This way, the conservation of precious forests is incentivised. Now, the challenge is to facilitate the expansion of the indigenous agroforestry cocoa systems to ensure environmental benefits while improving existing processing facilities. 

The unique local cocoa variety could become an important income source for indegenous communities (Source: Rogério Assis/ISA).

DeMendes, supported by the Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), a non-governmental organisation that promotes indigenous products, will buy the cocoa for the creation of indigenous chocolate, and providing it for a premium price to international chocolate markets.

Creating a viable and sustainable income alternative

After having wiped out 15% of the indigenous population in the 80s, illegal mining has now returned to the project area polluting rivers and harming natural resources. Due to a lack of economic opportunities, many of the indigenous inhabitants are at risk of being allured into the mining activities. Thus, there is a need for alternative, more sustainable income sources, while nature has to be preserved.

reNature will instigate a Transition Package through which the indigenous tribes will be provided with the technical and material means to grow cocoa through a Regenerative Agroforestry system. Further, a Model School will be implemented and operated to drive capacity-building and knowledge creation regarding the cocoa cultivation and processing within the community. DeMendes will buy the cocoa to create  indigenous-made Amazon chocolate, and providing access to international chocolate markets.

With the sale of cocoa as an income alternative, the aim is to prevent more young indigenous people from entering gold mining (Source: Rogério Assis/ISA).

Maintaining healthy forest functioning

The communities will increase the forest cover in the area, while preserving animal and plant life and diversity. The plantations will protect and restore the precious rainforest soil which is vulnerable to rapid degradation when uncovered and exposed to heavy rains. Agroforestry will also restore and maintain soil fertility and sequestrate an estimated amount of 1.440 tons of CO2 per ha/year. Further, it will regulate the micro-climate and local water cycle, ensuring vital rainfalls.

Indigenous peoples together with César De Mendes on expedition in the forest to find the golden fruit (Source: Rogério Assis/ISA).

Ensuring a resilient income for indigenous peoples

Cocoa’s yielding potential is twice as high in the Amazon as in Bahia – Brazil’s second cocoa growing region. Yet, the demand for Amazonian cocoa is lower, due to the lack of infrastructure and logistics. This project will contribute to the branding of ‘Amazonian Chocolate’ creating a direct link between the purchased chocolate bar and the reforestation of the world’s biggest rainforest. Through DeMendes processing and this branding advantage, the beneficiaries will obtain favourable prices. Further, agroforestry ensures stable yields (>1,200 kg/ha), diversified food sources, and economic resilience.

Cocoa pods in these forests are quite unique, having distinct properties in comparison to other cocoa varieties (Source: Rogério Assis/ISA).

This project ultimately aims to reinforce the livelihoods of more than 3.000 indigenous people. It will contribute to their food security, health, and well-being and create decent working opportunities. Next to cocoa as a cash crop, farmers will have the opportunity to grow additional food commodities for subsistence.

Preserving a way of life

Young generations of indigenous people will be producing cocoa through sustainable forest management. They will be making chocolate instead of working under inhumane conditions in illegal mining activities. This will raise public awareness for preservation of indigenous cultures and way of life, the value of the Amazon ecosystem, and inspire businesses to incorporate them in their agricultural activities.

reNature’s Felipe listening closely to César De Mendes, chocolatier and entrepreneur.

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