TMA is excited to be part of an incredibly important genetic bank and conservation project in the Jama-Coaque Reserve. Founder Jerry Toth’s chocolate company To’ak recently embarked on a journey to save pure genetic Nacional cacao from extinction. Nacional’s genetic lineage goes back 5,300 years ago in Ecuador, which is now recognized as the native origin of cacao. In recent centuries, Nacional reached global fame for its trademark floral aroma and complex flavor profile. Then in 1916 the variety was decimated by an outbreak of Witches’ Broom disease throughout the country, and a century of hybridization followed. By the beginning of the 21st century it was believed that genetically pure Nacional no longer existed.
Then in 2013, in the remote valley of Piedra de Plata, To’ak Chocolate found one of the last known remnants of pure Nacional cacao. Many trees in this valley are so old that they pre-date the hybridization wave that began a century ago. Through the help of genetic testing provided by the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Initiative (HCP), To’ak identified nine trees in Piedra de Plata that are genetically pure Nacional. Each of these trees is estimated to be over one hundred years old, which is considered the end of a cacao tree’s lifespan. Several of these trees are visibly ailing due to old age.
TMA’s Agroforestry Initiative now has all of the information and expertise needed to begin grafting and re-planting genetically pure Nacional cacao trees in the Jama-Coaque Reserve, Ecuador. If you would like to support To’ak and TMA’s effort to save pure genetic Nacional cacao, please visit To’ak’s IndieGoGo campaign by clicking on the image link below the video.