Chocolate Industry

Chocolate maker protecting Madagascar’s lemurs targets carbon credits

Beyond Good, a high-end chocolate maker in Madagascar, aims to start selling carbon credits by working with cocoa farmers to boost reforestation and provide a safer habitat for lemurs.

The New York-based company is working with Conservation International and Bristol Zoo in the UK after identifying five species of lemurs, and possibly a sixth, in groves of trees under which the Criollo cocoa variety used. to make their chocolate is cultivated.

This is about setting up corridors – first using boxes and later shade trees between the forest patches so that the endangered primates only found in Madagascar can roam without risk being killed by predators such as dogs. With much of the area cleared for growing rice and tobacco, saving the forest can help increase their numbers outside of protected areas and ultimately enable the sale of carbon credits.

“What we’re trying to do is intentionally plant corridors where lemurs can move around safely,” said Ryan Kelley, Managing Director of Beyond Good Madagascar, in an interview. “We measure the amount of carbon that is sequestered.”

The species found so far among cocoa trees are the giant mouse lemur, Sambirano’s fork lemur, mouse and dwarf lemurs, and the gray lemur. A sixth, so far identified only by its droppings, is probably the black lemur, according to the company, which specifies that a new study will soon be published on animals.

“Carbon sink”

Forests absorb carbon, acting as carbon sinks. If this absorption can be quantified, it can be sold in the form of credits to companies to offset the greenhouse gases they emit from activities such as generating electricity using fossil fuels. They can be earned by preserving forests that would otherwise have been felled, and can be traded on a number of international exchanges.

Beyond Good is growing rapidly and earning carbon credits would increase his income and those of the farmers he works with. In 2019, she made 700,000 chocolate bars and this year the number is around 2.1 million. Production is estimated at 3.9 million chocolates in 2023.

Currently, cocoa is harvested from 300 hectares (741 acres) of land and Beyond Good plans to purchase 200 tonnes of the beans. She hopes to quadruple the number of farmers she works with within three to five years.

While Madagascar accounts for a fraction of the world’s cocoa production, the chocolate made from its beans offers a unique fruity flavor, Kelley said. The island nation off the east coast of Africa is the world’s largest producer of vanilla.

The company was founded by Tim McCollum, who traveled to Madagascar in 1999 and spent two years there as a Peace Corps volunteer. He then set up the business to buy cocoa directly from farmers.

Beyond Good is in talks to set up a similar operation in Uganda, where it would establish a chocolate factory and most likely enlist farmers along the country’s border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo to grow cocoa. Chocolate could be produced from the end of next year, Kelley said.

“We are trying to find an ideal point where we are beyond the craft industry in order to achieve economies of scale,” he said.

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