Arsène Kouakou is proud of his shaded cocoa plot located in Zouhounou, in eastern Côte d’Ivoire. “I am a farmer,” he says. “I was born in cocoa; my parents were already in it. Since school, our jobs, my brothers, we all live in it. So, it’s important to us. With cocoa, I make money and that suits me. I can produce half a ton and it’s okay for my little ones. () Thanks to the sale of cocoa I can send my two children to school, and I keep the rest if there is a little illness and finally to manage to eat. Even if cocoa suits me, nevertheless my expenses are a lot and that is what is difficult for me now. »
The Indénié-Djuablin region where Arsène Kouakou lives and the whole of Côte d’Ivoire have lost vast forest areas due to deforestation. To combat this, the government and cocoa and chocolate companies have set up the Cocoa & Forests Initiative. A key strategy of the Cocoa & Forests Initiative is the promotion of agroforestry: cocoa, a tree that comes from the Amazon, thrives in the shade of tall trees.
Arsène Kouakou’s family plot has evolved over time. “Before, it was my grandmother who made this field. To make this field, they felled all the trees, and when you went to the field, because of the sun, the field no longer produced anything. Cocoa and cocoa wood die and so, as a farmer, I saw that the trees could maintain the cocoa to survive for a long time, and that’s why I did this. The trees prevent the cocoa from dying fast and make it possible to produce more and therefore to earn money. So, I move forward and meet my little needs at home. It is important. »
In the same region, Boa Ehouman also experimented with agroforestry on his plot of Amangouakro: “There are several cultures that have been put in place: not only the forest trees which are there to fight against the wind and the sun, and to protect the cocoa plants, but also the fruit trees to earn money, to sell at the market. So, I have more money compared to a non-diversified field,” he explains. “It also allows me to sell my products over several periods: when the yam season arrives, I sell yams, when the banana season arrives, I sell bananas and the same for my avocadoes, my oranges and of course my cocoa. All this allows me to increase my performance and have more money.”
“The trees I planted serve me. If I am asked to cut down trees, I will not do it, because if I cut them down, I will lose my cocoa field because there will be too much sun and the cocoa will die. In the years to come, not only will I keep the trees, but I will also plant more,” concludes Arsène Kouakou.