Landmark Wild Chocolate Reserve™

harvesting in jungle rainforests, each endowed with the original genetic cocoa varietals… fully DNA tested, verified & commercially available while preserving the environment on the only known planet with chocolate

by Mark Christian & Volker Lehmann


Synopsis: All chocolate derives from the fruit pods of the tree named Theobroma cacao. The original stocks of this tree grow in Amazônia (the Amazon in South America, the largest rainforest on Earth). Currently they are under siege, threatened by logging, mining, drilling & deforestation laying these & other trees to waste for cattle grazing, soybean farming, etc. In effect, an endangered species. Pleas to reverse deforestation are at the heart of the UN’s Paris Climate Change Accord 2015.

Landmark Wild Chocolate Reserve™ preserves cacáo diversity in its natural habitat. This in turn ramifies with rainforest conservation by leveraging fresh cacáo fruits-made-into wild chocolate to create an inflection point for saving the Amazon’s wider vitality.

It’s a simple & delicious way for everyone who enjoys chocolate the world over to build the triple pillars of genuine sustainability (environment / economic / social engagement) or ‘3-Ps in a Pod’ (Planet / People / Prosperity).

Landmark Wild Chocolate Reserve™… reinforcing the foundations of the Amazon.

Background: the best chocolate starts with the finest fruits of Theobroma cacao. But 98% of cacáo trees worldwide are bred for productivity, disease-resistance, & mass production. Their bulk-grade chocolate tastes more & more like wax. A pale ghost of the real deal. Planted in assembly lines on industrial plantations, which, ironically, foment diseases & crop losses! Such chocolate stands for nothing but the color brown.


That leaves about 2% or less than 100,000 metric tons (based on a 4 million metric ton worldwide production total) under the generalized ‘specialty cocoa’ category, of which wild-harvest cacáo comprises maybe 500 tons! An infinitesimal amount, making wild-cacáos the rarest of all.


Wild varieties are the original chocolate trees in the cradle of cacáo’s birthplace  — Amazônia, the greatest rainforest on Earth from where the entire chocolate industry is rooted &, in all likelihood, hold keys to its future sustainability. They present an endangered species. That they taste great, & far superior to bulk-grade, means the planet’s favorite flavor could vanish with them.


Wild-harvesting these trees contributes to genetic research by identifying specific &/or unique cacáo groups as they actually thrive in the field, in Amazônia; preserving their variety in bio-diverse hotspots – far more vital than static accessions ex situ (re: labs or plantations) – for genetic utilization to meet the needs & wants of chocolate lovers & businesses everywhere.

In the process wild-harvesting puts to the test, ground-truthing, Motamayor’s pivotal 2008 taxonomy, which re-classifies the Theobroma cacáo species into 12+ sub-clusters / varietals.


Beyond that, expeditions by wild cacáo hunters & harvesters may well recover more types yet to be surveyed & investigated — the ‘unknown unknown’.


Landmark Wild Chocolate Reserve™ takes a panoramic view from an integrated systems perspective. This avoids myopic distortions of the “lens effect” which fails to see the forest for the trees. Regarding cacáo’s broader significance, a K’iche’ elder teaches: ‘Cacáo is a sign of water & wherever there’s water, there’s life’.


The greater mission entails a bank shot: Amazônia, the largest rainforest in the world, is the motherland & cradle of Theobroma cacao – the tree from which all chocolate derives. It is also is the inflection point for the Earth’s environment & climate resilience. Programs to reverse deforestation are at the heart of the UN’s Paris Climate Change Accord 2015. Because billions of people love chocolate, it serves as the rainforest’s ambassador to humanity.


More than any other plant or animal, wild chocolate can be the lever through which all other factors transfer their force to preserve the Amazon &, by extension, the whole planet, a topic we explored years ago in Can Chocolate Still Save the Rainforest… or Just the Planet?


How? Cacáo is a lead tree in the rainforest. Eduardo Somarriba details in his 2010 research document Agrobosques cacaoteros del Amazonas (Cocoa Agroforests of the Amazon) that as an understory tree, cacáo gets along great as a playmate with all the canopy trees as well as the myriad of surrounding flora & fauna (birds, monkeys, fruits, herbs…. +).


It increases value for forest families. And impels still other forest communities to literally come out of the woodwork in pointing out these rarest treasures of cacáo trees. They fortify the network so when a groundswell of wild reserves are landmarked, the odds of deforestation are reduced if not eliminated.


By sustainably harvesting their fine-flavor fruits which make for hi-grade / hi-value chocolate, consumers worldwide can buy-in to caring for the planet so revenues flow back to the source where wild cacáo grows via specialty markets. This furnishes income to forest dwellers / river people, a real incentive where moral suasion goes only so far. That keeps their forest standing intact, thus saving trees, which could otherwise face extinction.


Improving livelihoods for indigenous families in the Amazon means the global community benefits from the abundance of the rainforest without destroying it.


The beauty of it all: the mission can be accomplished while respecting traditional customs of local people living in the forest, in accord with community-based resource management that harmonizes the environment on one hand & fulfils people’s better desires on the other. So much fruitful abundance within the natural scale of individual watersheds eliminates the need for biopiracy & plantations.


In sum, a wild cacáo nexus delays if not halts intrusions caused by mining, logging, ranching & infrastructure “improvements” (asphalt blacktops, resorts, et. al.). Failing that, enclaves carved into the Amazon might seclude them from destruction. Should enough nodes connect the network, they will form a bulwark against wholesale deforestation.


Altogether, landmarking restores the proto-‘urban-green’ design of Amazônia as it once stood in pre-Columbian times: a finely managed forest, a living laboratory / library of a garden-forest (based on archeology unearthed by Michael Heckenberger, Clark L. Erickson, utilizing cacáo as the champion tree due to humanity’s close relationship with it. A way where there is no way.


The pathetic shadow of this whole saga is that Big Chocolate (the industrial candy giants) so lacks stewardship of the very raw material which feeds it that a band of renegades has to seize the cause.


So, yes, you can have your chocolate & eat it too in choosing to have Amazonians receive your goodwill. We hack our way thru the arduous jungle trek; you uphold your end of the bargain in buying it. Giving is better than getting, especially when you get so much in return. Change the world – improve your mood. Wild chocolate literally & figuratively gives you a taste of the mission.


Win, win, win… the winning trifecta: people, planet, prosperity within reciprocal integration.



Strategic Plan: build strong triple pillars of genuine sustainability (environment / economic / social engagement) or ‘3-Ps in a Pod’ (Planet / People / Prosperity) in Amazônia to impact the entire biome.


While the rate of deforestation may be decreasing, the actual acreage continues to disappear, lending urgency to the campaign.


A bevy of organizations (The World Bank Group, Forest Carbon Partnership / BioCarbon Fund / Climate Focus) released a working paper titled Eliminating Deforestation from the Cocoa Supply Chain.


First Principle: protection of all remaining natural primary & secondary forest;

Second: take pre-emptive & concerted action thru a landscape approach to prevent continued deforestation.


Landmark Wild Chocolate Reserve™ strategically aligns these principles. It functions as a brake if not a bulwark against encroachment in reaching the greater solution.


Key Points —


— Rainforest conservation & restoration in concert with United Nations COP21 Accord of the Paris Climate Conference (October 2015)

— Cacáo traders & chocolate consumers underwrite economic viability via specialty spot markets so more revenues flow back to the source where cacáo originates & continues to evolve in the wild

— Traditional community-based resource management

no agribusiness infrastructure / mega-plantation architecture (being wild obviates any “improved” seedlings, fertilizers, pesticides / insecticides, herbicides, tractors)

no vulture capital

no biopiracy

Tactical Mission: optimize the preservation & utilization of cacáo genetic resources via Sequential Iteration…

Harvest & Development

Growth & Establishment


for the benefit of


local communities (forest dwellers / river people)





consumers &


environmental conservation

a thriving rainforest nexus, restoring the proto-‘urban-green’ design of Amazônia as it once stood in pre-Columbian times: a finely managed forest, a living laboratory / library of a garden-forest (based on archeology unearthed by Michael Heckenberger, Clark L. Erickson, utilizing cacáo as the champion tree due to humanity’s close relationship with it.



 Geographic Networking

  • Connect the prime watersheds (the organizational unit that comprise the greater Amazon River basin) into a forest-wide network aggregation;
  • Create structures / organizing bodies to coordinate both local & pan-Amazon harvesting programs in conjunction with legal & institutional frameworks (at local / regional / nat’l / int’l levels) that raise the profile of wild cacáo & preserves wild cacáo tree stands
  • Construct stakeholder programs (producers, villagers, technicians, entrepreneurs, university students, to produce technical-scientific & extension / training materials on the operation & options for improvement of wild Amazonian cacáo. Provide accordingly research, technology transfers, mobile communications, technical assistance to wild cacáo harvesters & information sharing for best practices in establishing quality standards to improve sustainability, safety, & quality of fine-flavor cacáo that the burgeoning premium sector demand for its hi-value chocolate products.
  • Form global alliances that facilitate funding & investment opportunities to support goals


  • Contribute to cacao’s genetic research by ground-truthing in situ Motamayor’s pivotal 2008 taxonomy (based largely on accessions ex situ, many sitting idle inside labs), which re-classifies the Theobroma cacáo species into 12+ sub-clusters / varietals; identifying specific &/or unique population groups as they actually exist in the field
  • Ensure long-term conservation & management of cacáo genetic resources in situ (natural habitats); more cost effective, beneficial & vital than ex situ (re: labs &/or plantations)
  • Understand the genesis, development, evolution &, where evident, renewal of wild cacáo, especially biophysical dynamics that gives rise to cyclical changes in one place
  • Widen the scope of identifying & preserving germplasm by conducting harvesting projects in remote zones to inaccessible genetic populations, especially where natural habitats are threatened; cacáo surveyors & harvesters may well recover add’l genotypes yet investigated — the ‘unknown unknown’.
  • Preserving bio-diversity hotspots for potential genetic utilization (wild varieties hold keys in all likelihood to industry’s future needs amidst multiple challenges – climate / politics / shifting markets; e.g. rice paddies in India decimated by Cyclone Aila were revived by ancient seeds after the new hybrids failed miserably)
  • Index research & ground surveys to expand, enhance & fill gaps in the int’l germplasm database for cacao collections at CRC (Cocoa Research Center, Trinidad), CATIE (Costa Rica), & University of Reading (UK)
  • Compare indigenous classification of cacáo with that of Western geneticists’ in addition to investigating the vast knowledge of medicinal plant usage, for the Amazon is a living pharmacy utilized by local shamans / healers for millennia.
  • Upgrade value of wild cacáo genetic resources via characterization & evaluation of traits ranging from productivity to disease-resistance, drought-tolerance & flavor (the last reputed among the finest in the world & one reason why consumers worldwide crave them which augurs well for success of the project)
  • Responsible stewardship for posterity


  • Hi-value chocolate made from fine flavor cacáo
  • In-situ preservation strategies & practices for market-driven remuneration to harvesters & local communities
  • Systemize a Network Delivery System spanning the entire supply chain from Source-to-Sale (S2S), including but not limited to, financial services (banking; savings; credit; insurance); export, market & value-added guidance;
  • Promote capacity building across the value chain
  • Design commercial model of innovation & technology to assure the sustainability & productivity of wild cacáo. The vigor of cacáo under adverse deep-shade conditions in the wild can increase by reducing shade (periodic thinning or pruning of vegetation), thereby increasing its population density (management by natural regeneration). Paramount to design in such a way that validates the wild nature.
  • Develop post-harvest methods to optimize flavor & value of wild cacáo
  • Enable market development & linkages (access + penetration, including logistics), distribution, promotions (digital [social media; interactive; e-commerce] & offline [retail; cross marketing affiliations; sponsorships; events])
  • Increase income / livelihoods thru direct line & open markets to underutilized & underserved sources… bringing the market to those who can’t travel to the marketplace

Costs / Income

Platform development
  • Investigate watersheds as the organizing principle to cacáo genetic groupings
  • Develop on an incremental point-to-point basis with a hub & spoke array
  • Financing
  • Fermentation protocols
  • Central fermentary sheds
  • Off-taking;
  • Logistics;
  • Quality – standardized post-harvest methods for greater comparative value; create instructional / best-practices manual
  • DNA testing & analysis
  • Online (website design & build-out; hosting; management & maintenance)
  • SGA (<20%)


Metrics / M&E (Monitoring & Evaluation)
  • Defined area(s) – GPS; Tech / data collection – GIS
    • Hub
    • Gathering Point
    • Fermentary station
    • Sacking Location
  • Utilize off-the-shelve software / apps (e.g., Farmforce by Syngenta)
  • Blockchain tracking / transparency to build trust & loyalty; smart contracts; direct payments
  • Impact Indicators
    • # of sites accessed
    • # of sites activated
    • total hectares / sq. km. under harvesting
    • yield per unit; in metric tonnes (MT)
    • total annual tonnage
    • outlet(s) for deliverables
    • $ / MT
    • price & profit in relation to both commodity & craft markets
    • Community Involvement


  • Membership defined by
    • Reciprocity
    • Integrity
    • Privileged Relationships
  • Landmarking fee
    • Space for philanthropic investors; collected by membership
    • 3% of network transactions
  • remuneration shared by all stakeholders in the value chain