A study conducted by the PUR Lab in Peru, in partnership with the "Université libre de Bruxelles" (Belgium) and the "Universidad Agraria de la Selva" (Peru), shows that agroforestry cocoa systems can increase the quality of cocoa by 86 % and yields by 62%, compared to full-sun systems. But switching from full-sun systems to agroforestry is quite a big challenge for farmers. In order to increase or maintain yields and harvest quality, the system must be designed cautiously considering several parameters, including the tree density. Shade trees modify the micro-climate for the crop, access to light, soil nutrients, and water.
The presence of trees can influence either positively or negatively the harvest. Too many trees can favour diseases due to fungus development (humidity) and may also induce competition for light, water, and nutrients. Well-designed agroforestry projects in cocoa supply chains add to sustainable development, offering social, environmental, and economic benefits. Trees contribute to reforestation efforts by communities and therefore bring an added value to their lands while providing a long-term income that supports local socio-economic development. Agroforestry is instrumental in fighting deforestation and addressing its consequences, such as soil erosion, water scarcity, natural disasters, landscape degradation, and biodiversity loss. While relying on the local agronomic knowledge of the communities, agroforestry can also increase the environmental awareness of beneficiaries.
Agroforestry models should be designed in close collaboration with communities to ensure their sustainability and maximize the provision of key ecosystem services such as biodiversity conservation, soil enrichment, water storage, fruit and timber production… that will benefit not only the environment but also the local communities. Today Agroforestry systems remain the best way to increase farmer’s resilience toward climate change and market instability.
Today, 70% of global cocoa production is grown by smallholders farmers with low levels of education and technical expertise. Urged by the need to provide for themselves and family, the cocoa culture might lead to environmental, social and economic challenges for local communities pressured to produce. These challenges can manifest in reduced yields, loss of ecosystem services, and thus further encroachment into forests.
Although Cocoa tree originates from forests, today the crop is mostly grown within monoculture systems. While these parcels benefit from high soil fertility & low pest attacks in the first years of production, their resilience to climate change is low. Plus, the produced yields are rapidly declining due to several factors such as pests and diseases, soil erosion, lack of soil nutrients, low water availability, etc. Combined with ageing production, maintaining yields would require significant investments from farmers which they can't afford.
Finally, with an ageing farmer population, decreasing yields, farmer families are slowly migrating out of the industry, seeking new opportunities. Thus, implementing agroforestry practices will support to broaden revenue diversification as well as providing livelihood strategies and local empowerment.
Despite attempts to address deforestation related to agricultural expansion, a loss of 80% of forest have been registered since 1950 in Côte d’Ivoire and about 25% between 1990 and 2005 in Ghana. Today, perverse incentives, market failures and a lack of safeguards continue to drive agricultural expansion through the forest frontier. Plus, the lack of technical knowledge to support complex agricultural models reinforce cocoa monoculture and slowly diminishing potential yields.
In the region, cocoa producers register an average ~500 kg/ha of production per year, which is significantly below forecasted yields of 1000 kg/ha (minimum). While diminishing production is partially due to ageing trees, limited access to resources and the degradation of ecosystem support services reinforce the growing gap and inequalities. For example, in Côte d'Ivoire, cocoa production provides critical incomes to smallholder farming communities but is facing significant environmental and economic challenges. Raising climatic variability, ageing farms and the lack of improved varieties affect cocoa productivity. Those variables increase the vulnerability of smallholders contributing to the local need for geographic expansion, deforestation resulting in biodiversity loss. Plus, the population rapidly growing, migration, in parallel with weak forest governance, economic shocks and policy changes are exacerbating conversion of forests to cocoa production in the country.
Today, PUR Projet works to support local communities to explore sustainable solutions for cocoa production. As we grow conscious of the importance to educate farmers, training workshops are implemented across the communities. In a partnership with Empow'her, a french non-profit organization, we have developed women empowerment programs. We aim to train and support local actors to grow resilient and independent by developing local tree nurseries.
Our projects in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire are made possible thanks to the financial support and engagement of our partners: Cargill, General Mills, Sucden as well as local cooperatives and engaged farmers.
Smallholder farmers across Côte d’Ivoire rely heavily on cocoa production, but rarely manage to generate a living income from cocoa alone. Balancing the well-being of farmers and conservation and restoration of forests along with cocoa production is a pressing challenge. Agroforestry’s potential to increase cocoa farmers’ incomes is often broached in the context of transforming the sector – yet there is little understanding of the economic impact of agroforestry approaches for cocoa farming.
In a new joint paper, these organisations present economic models illustrating a variety of agroforestry approaches. The following joined-up analysis suggests that agroforestry holds the potential to shift farmer household income distributions, by from 9% up to 50%, such that more cocoa farmers meet poverty and Living Income benchmarks. The analysis also highlights a number of other factors that will play a decisive role in smallholder farmers’ decisions to engage into agroforestry practices in their cocoa fields [...]
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