Chocolate is one of the world’s treasured delicacies. Cocoa can be traced back to 600 A.D when the Mayans migrated to northern South America and established the first known Cocoa Plantation in the Yucatan. Its early uses included not only eating it, but also using it as a currency. It was cultivated by indigenous people as a sacred plant for thousands of years until discovered by Spain in the 1600s and has become a major international commodity.
In Western Africa, Central America and the Amazon, cocoa is gold for farmers. Selling cocoa is a great cash crop lifting people in developing countries out of poverty. Costa Rica micro farmers who plant these trees generate a lucrative source of income by selling cocoa at local markets and to high-end stores. There is a big demand for high quality chocolate. As global warming worsens, growing this crop will become increasingly precarious over the next twenty years. Cocoa’s destined to become one of the most precious delicacies in the world. The Osa Peninsula’s relative resilience to the effects of global warming may cause it to become one of the few places able to grow this precious commodity by 2030.
Cocoa was brought to Costa Rica over a thousand years ago by Brazil and production of this crop peaked in 1920 rivaling Banana production as a cash crop. Between 1940 to 1970, Cocoa was the most important commercial crop with prices peaking in 1977, and then declining in the 80s until they started to rise again in the 90s. Cultivated by indigenous people, it is commonly located around protected areas of high national and global conservation value.
Costa Rica is the ideal climate for growing cocoa. With consistent rainfall and temperatures, Cocoa thrives here. Also, the varieties of cocoa fund in these parts have adjusted to the high humidity becoming resistant to the fungus that has killed many crops in Western Africa and Amazon. West Africa supplies 50% of the world’s cocoa, but as the annual temperature increases and rainfall continues to be erratic, these patterns will hamper their cocoa production.
While in other parts of the world, the cocoa plant is in a precarious position due to climate change, Costa Rica’s production remains stable. In the Osa Peninsula, local farmers have always produced some cocoa for local markets and personal use, but never created big farms to handle production of this crop. So there remains a wide variety of cocoa trees with great differences in genus producing a natural selection against sicknesses that destroy this crop.
Costa Rica’s poised to become a major world chocolate producer. But for now if you are visiting Costa Rica, it is worth taking a day trip to the local Cocoa plantations or you can support sustainable farming while enjoying Costa Rica by volunteering on a Cocoa Plantation. But if you are heading to the Osa Peninsula, Crocodile Bay organizes day trip to a local Cocoa Farm where you can get an insider’s perspective on this magical crop.