Loggers and farmers have destroyed all the big trees in Western Côte d’Ivoire, where Lucas Kouassi Kouame, a 37-year-old cocoa farmer and father of three, lives and works. This is causing climate change and lower agricultural yields.
As part of the Cocoa & Forests Initiative, a chocolate company has partnered with an NGO to address deforestation and improve the livelihoods of smallholder cocoa farmers in his village. Their work began in 2019 with field assessments to identify the causes of deforestation. This led to the implementation of cocoa agroforestry in the community. Cocoa agroforestry, or mixing forest trees and cocoa trees, restores ecosystems such as soil, biodiversity, and microclimates, fosters sustainable farming practices, and stabilizes cocoa yields. Agroforestry also improves farmers’ economic resilience by adding alternative sources of income to cocoa.
“I decided to join the project because planting trees will bring back the forest, which will bring us back the rain,” says Lucas. “The project has helped me learn about tree species and their economic and environmental role. This is why I plant fruit trees such as avocado, orange, petit cola, akpi, and kplé”.
The programs are co-designed with communities and include socialization, seedling distribution, technical assistance, training sessions, environmental awareness raising, monitoring, and long-term engagement to ensure sustainability and success. They also support farmers to access markets for agroforestry products.
Lucas recommends the project to other community members so they can improve their income and their crops. He also notes that planting trees protects the parcels and reduces disputes relating to property boundaries. Outside of cocoa, the community members participate in market gardening – the small-scale production of vegetables and fruits as cash crops – and the cultivation of food crops.
One day I would like to develop my own market garden.Lucas Cocoa Farmer