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Cocoa in Ivory Coast to benefit from ‘companion trees’

Finding solutions to reduce mortality
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A sign is draped in an entry way to denote the new project
An ICRAF-CÉMOI demonstration plot in Ivory Coast. CIFOR-ICRAF/Cathy Watson

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Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, is moving toward embracing a new “cocoa agroforestry” model,” according to a leading expert.

World Agroforestry will work with 3,500 farmers to reintroduce original forest trees — fruit, nut, timber and a few exotic fruit-tree species — on 14,000 hectares of cocoa-producing land over the next two years, said Cathy Watson, chief of partnerships at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and World Agroforestry (ICRAF).

The shift, spurred by a grant from the charity One Tree Planted, marks the first time that cocoa agroforestry systems will be rolled out on such a scale in West Africa, she said.

Through the grant, nurturing and maintenance of 550,000 diverse additional trees on smallholder cocoa farms, which typically have 800 to 1,300 cocoa trees per hectare will be possible.

The “Half a Million Trees” project will also be co-funded by Ivory Coast’s cocoa oversight body, Le Conseil du Café-Cacao (CCC), and France’s oldest chocolate company, CÉMOI.

The method of integrating cocoa trees with other species is designed to mimic more closely the natural forest environment.

One immediate impact has been a surge in demand for seedlings, Watson said.

In the 1970s, high-yielding, full-sun cocoa production was popular in Ivory Coast. However, as soil became depleted and bioclimatic conditions changed, the need for fertile growing conditions led to agricultural expansion into forests. A cycle of forest encroachment and abandonment followed, leading to deforestation.

The West African country has lost more than 85 percent of its forest cover since 1960, mainly due to cocoa farming, according to Reuters news agency, citing the Ivory Coast government.

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For more information on this topic, please contact Cathy Watson at c.watson@cgiar.org.
This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.
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