We have seen that, in spite of dedicated efforts by farm households and farmers’ organizations to improve productivity and quality of cocoa and negotiate better prices via certification and direct trade, the current cocoa-banana-Inga agroforestry system generates low levels of income. According to a recent study carried out by CIAT (International Center for Tropical Agriculture), cocoa growers located in the north of Nicaragua with an average 3 ha of cocoa have an estimated total net income of US$ 480/ha. This situation is a consequence of low productivity (around 450 kg/ha), which is attributed to poor shade, crop and soil fertility management and high level of harvest loss caused by Moniliasis (20-30%).
In addition, according to climate science predictions, cocoa growing areas of Central America will soon experience rising temperatures and more frequent extreme weather events. These changes will impact both cocoa growing households and the cocoa industry and will place both in increasing jeopardy. In this situation, growers’ vulnerability must be reduced in order to maintain risk at manageable levels.
Fostering high value climate smart cocoa agroforestry systems should therefore not only enhance cocoa productivity, but also help cocoa growers adapt to climate change and help increase farmers’ income both from the sale of products (cocoa, banana, fruits, timber) and from incentives for ecosystem services (water, carbon and biodiversity).
Within the Feed the Future Climate Smart Cocoa Program, the World Cocoa Foundation and key national partners from the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua are now notably engaged in selecting site-specific productive, disease-resistant and climate resilient cocoa planting materials and accompanying trees that will contribute to transforming current cocoa agroforestry systems into climate smart cocoa agroforestry systems. The initiative will also extensively employ climate, soil, water, plants, tree, and cost-benefit data to design and establish site-specific high value cocoa agroforestry systems with participating farm households. Working through territorial learning alliances and national policy dialogues, the initiative will accelerate collective learning for scaling actual climate smart agroforestry cocoa in the region.