At the current rate of deforestation, Côte d’Ivoire will irretrievably lose all its forest cover by 2034. The country is the world's largest producer of cocoa and the extension of farmland for cocoa cultivation is one of the main drivers of deforestation. Decoupling cocoa production from deforestation is therefore crucial for Côte d’Ivoire to achieve its commitment to produce zero-deforestation cocoa from 2017 and to restore the forest cover to 20% of its territory by 2030.
Agroforestry is a type of land management involving the growing of trees together with agriculture. It is a way to produce cocoa while restoring forest cover, improving soil fertility and diversifying the income of producers. However, there are many obstacles to its adoption by farmers. First, there is no reliable scientific data illustrating the impact of tree association on cocoa yields. This hinders the examination of the effects of agroforestry on the profitability of cocoa production.
Furthermore, despite the importance of cocoa in the national economy, most Ivorian planters live below the poverty line. Their low incomes prevent them from investing and create a vicious circle where the lack of fertilisers leads to unproductive plantations.
To enable small planters to fully embrace the short-term transition to sustainable production models, adequate economic and financial solutions need to be provided by public and private actors. A thorough understanding of the economics of smallholder cocoa production must underpin these solutions.
The study is based on a review of different technical options for sustainable cocoa production, combining the intensification of production and agroforestry. Agroforestry pilots in cocoa plantations mix a variety of trees for multiple purposes: firewood, fruit trees and timber.
On the basis of three pilot projects studied, two types of models were identified. Type A combines firewood and timber with a high preponderance of firewood, representing 75% of the associated trees (concentration). Type B combines firewood, fruit trees and timber (diversification).
Compared to the reference model (a 20 year-old monoculture of cocoa in direct sunlight), the shortfall of the type A model is significant and lasts a long time. For this reason, without specific assistance, the financial risk associated with this type of pilot will only attract plantation owners whose cocoa is not their main source of income.
In the type B model, food crops income offsets the loss of cocoa revenues in the first years. The small amount of firewood does not make their sale significant for the income of the plantation owner. Since there is less timber, the peak income in year 25 is less significant than in the type A model. The shortfall period from the reference model is very short. The income of the plantation owner increases greatly. This model is therefore attractive for all plantation owners.