Expert interview with Bioversity
What is Bioversity and what exactly do you do?
Bioversity is part of an international network of research centres specialised in agriculture and development. We study how the agricultural biodiversity of useful plants and trees can help improve the living conditions of small producers. Cocoa is one of our primary concerns. We coordinate the Cacao Net(a network focusing on the conservation of cacao genetic resources for sustainable cocoa farming), which is active worldwide, the Cocoa of Excellence Programme (a programme that recognises the work of cocoa farmers and celebrates the diversity of cocoa flavours), and have developed a global strategy for the conservation and use of cacao genetic resources.
What makes the cacao diversity conservation projects in Peru so important ?
We’re all convinced that the unique genetic diversity of Peruvian cacao can help solve numerous problems facing cocoa producers in Peru, as well as in other countries. The great diversity of cacao in Peruvian farms results from the tremendous genetic wealth of ancient cacao varieties, their fusion with introduced cacaos, and the active participation of cocoa producers in the process. We aim to learn more about these indigenous cacao varieties and the producers’ efforts to conserve them. Thus we’ll be able to help producers extract more value from these cacaos both for themselves and for consumers.
What role do you play in your partnership with the Choba Choba Foundation ? What exactly does the genetic analysis of different cacao varieties in the Alto Huayabamba valley entail?
We integrate samples of various cacao varieties from Choba Choba associated producers’ plots to our collection of Peruvian cacaos. The genetic analysis of these local varieties from the Alto Huayabamba valley will show which other cacao varieties they are related to, and help us categorise them. It is essential to make the distinction between ancient cacaos and commercial varieties. They are part of the genetic cultural heritage, and we must learn more about their precise origin. The more knowledge we gather, the more we can put it to good use to serve consumers and cocoa producers.
Dr Marleni Ramirez, PhD
Regional Representative for Central and South America