Producing Forest-friendly Chocolate
Guitty Saidou is a smallholder cocoa farmer from Agboville, Côte d’Ivoire, who recently learned about the importance of agroforestry. “Before, I used to plant cocoa without planting other trees,” he says. “Worse, I would take a piece of forest and clear all the trees.”
Before, I used to plant cocoa without planting other trees,” he says. “Worse, I would take a piece of forest and clear all the trees.Guitty Saidou
Côte d’Ivoire has one of the fastest rates of deforestation in Africa, with dramatic consequences: a steep decline in rainfall and other devastating alterations in local climatic conditions that threaten the cocoa crop, Côte d’Ivoire’s main agricultural commodity.
Cocoa has brought prosperity to the country; however, decades of cocoa production have exhausted the soil. The decreasing fertility of unsustainably operated plantations has led local farmers to encroach on forests in their search for more productive land.
In response, President Alassane Ouattara confirmed his commitment to defining a better strategy and a sustainable solution to restore the national forest to 20 per cent of the territory by 2030. Côte d’Ivoire became a UN-REDD Programme partner country in 2011 and has been able to leverage this high-level political support to make substantive progress on REDD+.
The country’s national approach to REDD+ includes agroforestry as an effective means of shifting deforestation trends. To this end, the UN-REDD Programme is working with local cooperatives including COOPSBAD (La Société coopérative simplifiée Binkadi d’Aké Dounanier) to provide free technical training to farmers like Saidou.
“Agroforestry, though not the only solution to deforestation, is potentially one of the most effective,” says Jonathan Gheyssens, UN-REDD expert on financing for sustainable land use. “It means the diversification of revenue streams and reducing monoculture risks for smallholder farmers who face fluctuating cocoa export prices. It also increases their resilience to climate variations and makes a positive contribution to climate change mitigation.”
Before converting to agroforestry, Saidou’s cocoa plantation suffered from too much sun exposure. “The sun would strike the cocoa trees, making them lose their leaves. It would dry out the soil and cause the roots of the cocoa trees to die.”
“The shadow of the associated trees protects the roots of the cocoa plant,” says Amory Parfait, one of the trainers. “The shadow also lets herbs grow quickly, herbs that retain water, which helps against drought. We started this diversification two years ago, and we now help
farmers plant avocado, orange and mango trees among their cocoa.”
Youssouf N’djoré, acting country director for the Côte d’Ivoire office of the World Cocoa Foundation, supports the need for a sustainable cocoa business through agroforestry. “Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana signed the Cocoa & Forests Initiative, a commitment to produce more cocoa
on less land. The way to do that is through agroforestry, to produce green cocoa, cocoa that can be traced to ensure it isn’t coming from prohibited or protected areas, that it’s not harmful to the forest and that it gives sustainable revenue to farmers. The vision of the World Cocoa Foundation for the future is to have more cocoa with thriving farmers on less land so that we can have a better environment for future generations.”