The Mata Atlântica, the Atlantic Forest, in the south of Bahia state is the ideal habitat for cacao cultivation, thanks to the high humidity and soil characteristics. In the local cultivation system, known as Cabruca, there is no need to deforest the land, because the cacao trees grow well in the shade of other trees native to the Atlantic ecosystem and co-exist with a large variety of other plant and animal species. This method, practiced in the region for over 200 years, is a model that has inspired other agroforestry systems.
The cacao fruit (cabossa) is oval in shape, with a shell whose color varies from green to yellow to red depending on the variety. After harvesting, the pods are cut open and the cacao beans, the most important part of the fruit, are removed. They are then fermented, a very delicate phase that greatly affects the quality of the finished product. The duration of the fermentation varies depending on the desired acidity level and sensory qualities. Once fermented, the beans are dried and roasted.
The cabruca cultivation system is based on a large number of cacao varieties, but the most common is Parazinho, which produces a high-quality chocolate. While cabruca avoids deforestation, it does not exclude the use of pesticides and fertilizers. The Presidium protocol, however, specifies that synthetic chemicals must not be used.
The community using the cabruca system lives in an area that was defined and assigned to the producers during the agricultural reform process that began in 2002, and was made official in 2018. The community is organized around principles inspired by associations and cooperatives. The cacao is cultivated in individual plots that belong to each family and in common plots belonging to the association. The cultivation tasks are distributed between work groups made up of men and women of all ages. This social context facilitates the exchange of knowledge between young and old and strengthens relationships between producers.