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soil building

Regenerating the rainforest by growing cacao with Alejandro Solano of Choco Mashpi

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Though I’ve spoken to some great orchardists through this podcast, many of them are growing cold tolerant trees in far northern climates, but I wanted to get a perspective on running a holistically managed orchard in the tropics to explore how the beneficial interactions between some of the most prized tree and perennial products in the world can be grown in a way that fuels the restoration of these incredibly biodiverse and robust ecosystems. I’ve known quite a few orchardists from back in Guatemala where I used to live and work, and I’ll link to those interviews in the show notes for this episode for a wide perspective on the topic, but in this interview we’ll take a look in the cloud forest of the Ecuadorian Amazon to see how the team at Mashpi Artisanal Chocolate have brought their piece of land back from being a degraded and deforested pasture to a thriving rainforest cacao plantation that has brought the biodiversity back to their forest through a method they call analog forestry. 

In this interview I spoke with Alejandro Solano who co-owns and manages Mashpi Chocolate as the resident reserve ecologist. Apart from knowing in depth everything that has to do with the cultivation of cocoa and working directly in its production, he is in charge of planting other species that accompany the cacao trees and ensures their health through whole ecosystem management. He also conducts ongoing research on biodiversity and is a naturalist with a sharp eye and intuition. Along with helping to manage the business and land, he also guides visitors, and gives workshops on the farm project and the reserve.

In this interview we start by defining analog forestry and it’s defining aspects. From there we explore the larger vision of cloud forest restoration that the cacao production is merely one aspect of. Alejandro also explains how the preservation of the genetics of his cacao is helping to preserve the biocultural heritage of Ecuador and its history as well. Towards the end we also go through all the steps of producing some of the highest quality chocolate available from seed all the way to the chocolate bar. 

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Resources:
http://www.analogforestry.org/

https://www.chocomashpi.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Mashpi-Artisanal-Chocolate-154631088076997/

Other tropical forest management episodes:

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