In 2016, conservation scientists embarked on phase one of the research. They spent six months working with cocoa farmers, conducting lemur surveys and monitoring plantations using night cameras and acoustic units. The research identified five species of lemurs, including three categorized as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, living in the plantations. All 3,263 share trees in the plantations were also surveyed to understand which trees the lemurs were using.
In phase two, researchers will assess and increase connectivity between cocoa plantations and forest fragments to begin active development of habitat corridors and bolster biodiversity. Additionally, researchers will work with farmers to make agroforestry decisions that impact sustainable livelihoods and conservation.
In June 2020, a local field team on the ground in Madagascar began agroforestry and biodiversity framework to prepare for when Malagasy researchers from Bristol Zoological Society can travel to the research site. The research is expected to conclude in 2024.
The environmental stakes in Madagascar are high. Approximately 90% of plants and animal species found in Madagascar are endemic. However, because of Madagascar’s extreme rate of poverty, 90% of its original forest has been lost.
According to the World Cocoa Foundation, 70% of the world’s cocoa is grown in Africa; however, less than 1% of the world’s chocolate is produced there. Supply chain fragmentation drives poverty, exploitation, and environmental degradation in cocoa-producing countries. Most farmers earn less than $1USD a day. The traditional African cocoa supply chain involves three to five layers of intermediaries and requires up to 120 days in transit from farm to factory.