Madre de Cacao – A Simple & Elegant Tree
Common names: Mata Ratón; Cacao de nance, Cachanance, it is commonly known as “Madreado” in Honduras; Kakawate in the Philippines; Madre Cacao or Madre de Cacao in the Philippines, Belize and Guatemala; and Madero negro in Nicaragua.
Madre de Cacao is nitrogen-fixing tree that can grow from 10 to 12 meters high. The tree is referred by many people as a quick-stick due to the characteristic of growing almost right away just by cutting it and directly planting it in the ground.
Adaptable to almost any soil environment including infertile soils, the tree is tolerant to salt spray and water logging and it can also tolerate drought for up to 6 to 8 months. This tree can be potentially weedy, but rarely causes a problem. Its ubiquitous characteristic makes it good alternative for feeds due to its availability in almost at all areas in the country.
In many tropical and sub tropical countries, the tree is used for various purposes such as live fencing, fodder, coffee shade, firewood, green manure and rat poison. The tree can also be used for medicinal and insect repellant properties.
Farmers in Latin America for example often wash their livestock with a paste made of crushed leaves to ward off torsalos, a common parasite on cattle and deer. In the Philippines, the extract obtained from its leaves is used to remove external parasites.
The tree can also be planted to reduce topsoil erosion in the initial stages of reforesting denuded areas.
According to World Agroforestry Centre, this species is becoming an important part of farming practices in many countries such as Africa because it fixes nitrogen in the soil boosting crop yields significantly without the expense of chemical fertilizers. In addition, it is tolerable of being cut back to crop height year after year since the trees go into a dormant state when they are cut back, so the root system is not competing straight away for the nutrients, and the crop is free to become established. The trees only really start to come out of the dormant phase when the crop is already tall.