Ngobe cultural values of cacao and sustainable development in western Panama
Stoike, Jeffrey James
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This thesis examines questions of conservation and development pertaining to the Ngöbe, an indigenous group in western Panama, with a focus on cacao (Theobroma cacao Linn.) agroforestry. A political ecology framework is applied to cacao agroforestry as sustainable development amongst the Ngöbe in a historical context. Through research based on both academic and grey literature, as well as an unpublished thesis, I discuss Ngöbe symbolic values of cacao in the context of conservation and development trends in the region. I make specific reference to the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (MBC), a transnational conservation program which promotes cacao agroforestry in Ngöbe communities. I conclude that future conservation efforts should be directed towards the development of policies that enhance broader Ngöbe values for cacao and should not rely overwhelmingly on market-based criteria.