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Patricia Kouamé, president of ECOAS, a cooperative mainly composed of women, says: “Everyone is affected by climate change, and even more so we, the main players in the agricultural world“. In the San-Pedro region, where ECOAS is located, the climate has deteriorated greatly in recent years. The dry season has become more pronounced and forecasting rain, which is necessary for the organization of seeding, is now impossible. “Much more physical and financial effort is needed to maintain the cropping calendar,” she adds.
The main reason? Deforestation, which is a consequence, according to Patricia Kouamé, of the bad practices of the past: “A strong prejudice consisted in believing that the other trees present in the cocoa fields limited productivity, […] the trees were felled and burned”. The Cocoa & Forests Initiative aims at reversing this situation.
Patricia Kouamé has participated in events and training sessions organized thanks to the Conseil Café Cacao, Côte d’Ivoire’s coffee and cocoa authority. She planted shade trees, such as kola, on her 2.2-hectare cocoa plot. These trees allow moisture retention, necessary for the proper development of cocoa.
“If we want to see cocoa farming become sustainable, we must change our behavior, and this requires raising awareness among farmers of better practices“. The priority is “planting trees“, she says. For this, the distribution of seedlings is often not enough even if it is a valuable aid.
Patricia Kouamé stresses that it is above all necessary to raise awareness of deforestation and its consequences. She actively participates in farmer training: “As President of a cooperative, my role is essential so that cocoa culture can continue. It is my duty to raise awareness among our farmers, to change the behavior […] otherwise the cocoa will disappear”. Particular attention is devoted to young people, “the next generation of tomorrow”, and women, who have a particular role to play in these activities.