Michael Niemann’s blog Bitter Chocolate has a great post today about cacao, forestry, and Francois Ruf’s concept of “Forest Rent”. It’s well worth checking out, and relevant for our purposes as it describes exactly what we’re trying to roll back (in our admittedly small way) here in Hawaii.

The idea of agriforestry is at the center of what we’re trying to achieve here at Ko’Ka. Working on the ex-sugar tablelands of the North Shore, the recreation of a biodiverse environment is an absolute necessity after so many years of extractive conventional agriculture, and the integration of cacao and tropical hardwoods has two major benefits:

1) Environmental. Cacao needs robust shelter from the wind and moderate shading at our orchard, and the use of both hardwoods and grasses (natives like Koa and Pili where possible, augmented with exotics like Teak and Mahogany) allows us to reinvigorate the soils and biodiversity of our farm at the same time as we create a high-value organic tree fruit crop.

2) Economic. Even in the coming age of carbon markets and cap-and-trade systems, it is difficult to find functional models that encourage the reforestration of the tropics. The integration of cacao into an agriforestry model takes some of the short-term sting out of the cost of planting these longer-term tree crops, offering at least a potential way forward toward the recreation of productive diversified ag and forestry systems.

It is crucial to us that Ko’Ka serve as at least one good model of a climate-positive future for cacao and chocolate, and we see an agriforestry approach as key to that central idea.