Group picture of the CacaoNet meeting at the University of Reading, UK to put the finishing touches to a Global Strategy for the Conservation and Use of Cacao Genetic Resources. Photo: M. Gilmour, Mars
The creation of a network was proposed in 2005 to optimize the conservation and utilization of cacao genetic resources worldwide for the benefit of breeders, researchers and farmers.  The Global Network on Cacao Genetic Resources Conservation and Use, CacaoNet, was officially launched at the COPAL 15th International Cocoa Research Conference in San José, Costa Rica, in October 2006, recognizing:
  • the need for cacao breeders to have access to diverse germplasm and information about that germplasm in order to develop new varieties resistant to current and emerging threats from pests, diseases and other stresses
  • that breeders and producers also need access to such germplasm and information in order to supply the cocoa and chocolate industry with high-quality cocoas suitable for preparing the diversified and high-quality products demanded by consumers
  • that the genetic diversity of cacao and its wild relatives that represent the source of genes useful to cocoa production are under threat from habitat loss, market forces and other influences
  • that considerable resources are already being invested by the private and public sectors in the conservation, characterization and safe exchange of cacao genetic resources but that the cost-effectiveness of these efforts could be greatly enhanced through clearer policies and improved coordination


CacaoNet’s overall goal is to optimize the conservation and use of cacao genetic resources, as the foundation of a sustainable cocoa economy (from farmers through research to consumers), by coordinating and strengthening the conservation and related research efforts of a worldwide network of public and private sector stakeholders. A priority for CacaoNet is to review existing information, and to facilitate where necessary the collecting of new characterization/evaluation data for these collections, in order to identify priorities for long-term conservation and utilization. The importance of information management was stressed at several occasions including the importance for high quality data and correct labelling. CacaoNet brings together national and international players in both public and private sectors.  It was also foreseen that CacaoNet would create mechanisms and structures that facilitate funding opportunities to be used for the support to conserving and utilizing cacao genetic resources.


The objectives of CacaoNet are to:
  • Provide a platform for the coordination and implementation of priority research, breeding and use related to cacao genetic resources (e.g. virus indexing, improved methods for germplasm exchange, genetic identity studies, studies on diversity in farmers’ fields, etc.)
  • Develop priorities for, and coordinate regional approaches to cacao genetic resources conservation, exchange and utilization
  • Ensure cost-effective long-term conservation and management of cacao genetic resources in the global public domain
  • Prioritize and implement collecting missions to ensure conservation and access to poorly-known gene pools, especially where the natural habitat is threatened
  • Enhance the value of cacao genetic resources for breeding, through effective characterisation, evaluation and pre-breeding efforts
  • Ensure effective management and exchange of information on cacao genetic resources
  • Facilitate access to useful germplasm by breeding programmes and the adoption of superior cultivars by farmers and ensuring maintenance of genetic diversity at farm level
  • Promote the use of genetic diversity in cacao-based cropping systems to improve the livelihoods of farmers
  • Promote capacity building on cacao genetic resources conservation and utilization for national breeding programmes


One of the first internationally agreed priorities for CacaoNet was the development of a Global Strategy for the conservation and utilization of cacao germplasm.  CacaoNet is uniquely placed to mobilize the cacao genetic resources community to come together and propose the components of a global collaborative strategy for strengthening the conservation and maximizing the use of these genetic resources in improvement programmes to ultimately benefit the many small farmers struggling with the vulnerability of a crop like cacao and the many devastating diseases that affects it.  No other global network dedicated to the conservation and use of cacao genetic resources exists. CacaoNet is currently funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Mars, the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) and the Cocoa Research Association Ltd. (CRA Ltd.) and coordinated by the Montpellier office of Bioversity International.