Bibliographic Resource Center for Cacao, Trees, Forests and Environment

Cacao (Theobroma cacao L.) is produced in over 50 countries, it covers more than seven million hectares, and contributes to the socioeconomic well-being of five million small-producer homes in developing countries in the humid tropical region.

Cacao is an important source of income in many poor countries. It has been produced in pruned and degraded natural forests resulting from timber exploitation; in young secondary forests or agricultural lands previously deforested. Therefore, it is not too hard to imagine that the relationships among cacao, trees and forests have sometimes been conflicting (deforestation and degradation of several natural forest categories), and other times synergetic (reforestation and restoration of degraded and uncovered agricultural areas).

The current and past relationships among cacao, loss and degradation of natural forests, and the reforestation and restoration of degraded areas, have not been studied in depth or covered in all the cacao-producing countries in the world.Whether it is established in pruned forests or in previously deforested agricultural lands, cacao is produced in association with other trees, palms, and giant plants (bananas and plantains). It not only offers shade and conditions a microclimate for the healthy growing and production of the cacao plant, but also provides the family with other goods (timber, fruit, firewood, resins, honey, etc.) and services (decoration) for self consumption or for sale.

The presence of various tree species and other useful plants within the cacao plantation also provide several environmental services of interest for society (water, soil and biodiversity conservation, atmospheric carbon fixation, mitigation of global change and global warming).

Agroforestry systems with cacao increase land productivity and diversify production and the family’s income, which increases home stability and resilience to external factors (e.g. oscillations and drastic and extended fluctuations in cacao prices). Nonetheless, even with a long history of association among cacao, trees, forests and environment, the topic has just recently become the most important in cacao programs worldwide.Nowadays, governments, donors, politicians, scholars, professionals in the cacao sector and producers are interested in maximizing benefits (regulated shade, increased productivity and productive diversification per unit of cultivated surface, environmental services) resulting from the presence of trees and other crops within the cacao plantations.

Therefore, in 2005, CATIE, MARS, ICRAF, IITA, CIRAD and CONSERVATION INTERNATIONAL agreed to establish and coordinate a worldwide group dedicated to the study and improvement of the relationships among people, cacao, trees, forests and the environment.This group is called INAFORESTA, and it has started its work by creating a bibliographic database that will allow specialists, governments, politicians and donors to learn about what is and is not known regarding this important issue. The INAFORESTA bibliographic database will contain all that has been published about the topic in Latin America (CATIE), Africa (IITA) and Asia (ICRAF), in an internet portal that will offer listings of bibliographic citations and complete texts where there are no copyright issues with the editorial companies around the world. In Latin America, the hub will be located at the CATIE/IICA Orton Memorial Library: http://biblioteca.catie.ac.cr/inaforesta