The future of coffee and cocoa is safeguarded at CATIE

For more than 70 years, international coffee and cocoa collections have conserved genetic resources that have made it possible to improve existing coffee and cocoa varieties. For several decades, CATIE, together with various partners, have been conducting research using the genetic wealth that exists in the collections and they have managed to generate six new varieties of cocoa and F1 hybrids of coffee with characteristics such as disease tolerance, ability to adapt to various climate and soil conditions, high productivity and excellent quality.

The new cocoa and coffee materials have been successfully disseminated to cocoa and coffee growing families in Central America and Mexico, contributing to the increased productivity and sustainability of the crops, as well as the income of the producing families. These actions generate economic and social well-being while conserving biodiversity and ecosystem services through the agroforestry systems that are formed from these crops.

The International Cocoa Collection began in 1944 with materials introduced from 25 different countries, including Ghana, Brazil, Belize, Colombia, Honduras, Ecuador, Indonesia, Trinidad and Tobago, Cameroon and Malaysia. It currently has 1,235 accessions and was declared one of the two most important international cocoa collections in the world by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It is also a central part of the global strategy for the conservation and use of cocoa genetic resources promoted by Bioversity International.

The International Coffee Collection began in 1949 with materials introduced from Brazil, Guatemala and El Salvador. Later, wild Coffea arabica materials were brought in from Ethiopia, Kenya and Yemen, collected by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the French Scientific Research Institute for Development Cooperation (ORSTOM, today IRD), and the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI).

This coffee collection, composed of around 2000 varieties, is the fourth largest in the world and the most important collection of Coffea arabica in the Americas, both in terms of the number of varieties and the genetic diversity it conserves. It is considered one of the four collections of origin in the world, according to the Global Strategy for the Conservation of Coffee Genetic Resources developed by the Global Crop Diversity Trust and WORLD COFFEE RESEARCH (WCR). Both collections are in the public domain and since their creation they have supported the genetic improvement programs of many countries around the world, offering opportunities to produce differentiated chocolates and coffees that are healthier, have better quality, and innovative flavors.

Over the years, CATIE has had the support of important partners for the maintenance of the collections and the development of research, including PROMECAFE, the Costa Rican Coffee Institute (ICAFE), GAIA Coffee, Cafetalera Orígenes, San Francisco Bay Coffee, the PROCAGICA Programme (of the INTER-AMERICAN INSTITUTE FOR COOPERATION ON AGRICULTURE and the European Union), Crop Trust, WCR, the Centre for International Cooperation in Agronomic Research for Development (CIRAD) Starbucks, the Fine Coffee Association of Costa Rica, Nestlé, Mars, Bioversity International, WORLD COCOA FOUNDATION (WCF), the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock of Costa Rica (MAG), the National Institute for Agricultural Innovation and Technology Transfer (INTA), Korean Cooperation for Food and Agriculture in Latin America (KoLFACI), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and FAO.

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