Cacao Crisis

Climate change is putting agriculture in vulnerable parts of our planet at risk and it is always the poorest farmers living in these areas who have to suffer the consequences.

For example, two big disasters that hit Mexico and Bangladesh last month. Not much was reported about the former but there was significant damage.

Although the worst disruption was in urban areas, particularly some districts in the town of Villahermosa, about 160,000 hectares of countryside in the state of Tabasco used for livestock and crops were seriously affected. More than 80% of the area was flooded, causing devastating damage and the destruction of banana, cocoa and coconut plantations which are one of the main economic resources of the region.

The causes were not due to inefficient management of the catchment area or excessive building activity, which prevented water from draining away, but to the incredible amount of rain which fell in just a few hours. This can be directly correlated with current climate changes. The area is particularly suited for producing cocoa and is the place of origin of the criolla variety. This is where the first information and evidence for the use of cocoa in Mayan culture was recorded.

Fortunately the waters receded rapidly and did not cause permanent damage to production activity. Although part of the cacao harvest has been compromised, only the cabosses (the fruit of the cacao tree) nearest to the ground were affected.

Nonetheless the appearance of a very harmful fungal infection due to excessive ground humidity is a very real threat and could blight about 70% of the total cacao crop. We need to therefore set up a project to stop the disease from spreading and reduce contagion. For this to be done it is important to support producers and their families. Slow Food has launched a campaign to raise funds. Information on how to support this initiative can be found on old.slowfood.com.

First printed in La Stampa onDecember 2, 2007

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