From May 20 to 22, 2019, in Montpellier, France, CIRAD and INRA hosted the World Congress on Agroforestry in partnership with World Agroforestry (ICRAF). Organized only once every five years, this was the first time that this important conference took place in Europe. Renowned experts from all over the world led one fascinating talk after another to discuss the major questions in agroforestry with key industry stakeholders. They also shared results from current research projects to identify common development issues to work on together.
During the World Congress on Agroforestry, CIRAD’s Martin Notaro had the chance to present the preliminary results from his ongoing research for Cacao Forest. This provided a great opportunity to introduce the project to as many people as possible and to further establish the non-profit’s legitimacy among specialists.
Martin, a 3rd year PhD student at CIRAD, is conducting his thesis research as part of the Cacao Forest project. Representing CIRAD in the Dominican Republic, he has spent 2 years in the field collecting and analyzing data to establish a detailed inventory and assessment of the current situation. His assessment describes the type of cocoa trees and other existing tree species in the area, and includes their density, height, age, and other secondary data.
Agroforestry consists of mixing different trees, including those used for agriculture, with other species of plants to maximize soil resources while also preserving the environment.
Farmers who use agroforestry often combine one main crop (in this case, cocoa) with other species of trees to shade the main crop. This in turn provides the grower with a variety of other produce, products, and revenues from the fruit, fodder, and many uses for wood.
Scientific studies have demonstrated that cocoa yield decreases when the diversity and density of other plant species in the agro-forest system increase. The different species start competing with each other and even trees from the same species compete (for sunlight, water, soil nutrients, etc.).
However, using only yield as a parameter remains a very shortsighted outlook and should not be the only element taken into consideration. Plant diversity stabilizes and nourishes the soil, and provides additional revenues and/or food to growers’ families.
Goal of the study
Our hypothesis postulates that in an agroforestry system the overall revenues generated by the associated products, produce, and main crop (cocoa in this case) can be higher than the revenues generated by growing only cocoa trees ( monocropping).
We used the following method to test this hypothesis:
140 farmers were randomly chosen in the three major cocoa producing regions of the Dominican Republic.
Among these farmers, we identified three main agroforestry models:
– Type 1: low diversity and density of associated trees (cocoa trees cover more than 85% of the land), very few species present;
– Type 2: moderate density and diversity, between 3 and 7 different species of trees on the cocoa plantation;
– Type 3: high density and diversity, more than 7 different species present.
CI: Cocoa Income
FI: Fruit Income
SC: Self Consumption
The revenues from cocoa are similar for Type 1 and Type 2 models, but they are far less for Type 3 models.
The revenues generated by selling fruit are the same for all three models. Family fruit consumption is clearly greater for Type 2 and Type 3 models.
The most common fruits grown on cocoa plantations are bananas, avocados, and citrus.
Type 2 parcels clearly generate greater overall revenues: while cocoa yield is similar to Type 1 parcels, Type 2 parcels produce a significant amount of additional food that the farmers’ families eat. It is highly likely that farmers could sell more fruit from the cocoa plantation than they do now if better logistics and supply chains were in place.
Replacing weak or sick trees in Dominican cocoa plantations and maintaining agroforestry diversity help to increase revenues for growers, reduce the poverty rate, and make a career in cocoa tree farming appealing to younger generations.
This is the current work in progress on the 36 parcels studied by the Cacao Forest team, and we are all highly motivated to contribute to further developing the current positive dynamic and this very promising approach.