Invent a new model for cocoa smallholders: agroforestry, a credible alternative to face an uncertain future
Invent a new model for cocoa smallholders: agroforestry, a credible alternative to face an uncertain futurewca2014-1805 Jagoret Patrick 1,*Deheuvels Olivier 2Snoeck Didier 3Bastide Philippe 3 1UMR System (Functionning and management of Tropical and Mediterranean cropping systems), Cirad, Montpellier cedex2, France, 2UMR System (Functionning and management of Tropical and Mediterranean cropping systems), Cirad/Catie, Turrialba, Costa Rica, 3UR Systèmes de Pérennes, Cirad, Montpellier, France
Sustainability of the world cocoa production is more and more discussed in the humid tropics. Cocoa cropping is still characterized by an increase of production areas to the detriment of forest areas. At the same time, a part of the world cocoa production comes from agroforestry systems as observed in Cameroon where most of the cacao orchards are based on old cocoa agroforestry systems (up to 50 years old) still managed by small farmers. Paradoxically, improving cocoa production remains associated to intensification of agricultural practices: selected varieties, very light shade, mineral fertilizers, phytosanitary treatments. However, generally, this technical package does not match the strategies of cocoa farmers who do not have the financial resources to support such a model in a context of sharp fluctuations in cocoa market. Consequently when the prices fall, they question the very existence of farms depending on this speculation. The authors show that cacao agroforestry systems can be a source of inspiration for ecological intensification of cocoa production. With examples from research works carried out in Cameroon and Costa Rica, the authors show that agroforestry systems are able to produce sustainable cocoa on a very long time, contrarily to what is usually described, without additional mineral fertilization and sometimes at levels that are comparable to those obtained by the conventional intensification model. For smallholders, cocoa agroforestry systems have also other interesting advantages. Firstly, they can allow them to use less chemicals by providing greater flexibility in their use, as they ensure the maintenance of quality soil and offer an alternative way (environmental regulation) to conventional pest control methods based on the use of chemical inputs. Secondly, in addition to cocoa, agroforestry systems also provide farmers with a variety of products (fruits, medicines, timber, etc.). Thirdly, agroforestry systems provide greater resilience to changes in socio-economic context and farmers have more flexibility to manage them. This work confirms that agroforestry can be a credible alternative to the agricultural intensification package usually proposed to cocoa farmers.