Côte d’Ivoire is the world’s leading producer of cocoa (Theobroma cacao L.), with 800,000 smallholders producing nearly 40% of the world’s supply of ‘brown gold’ on about 2 million hectares of land. But many of these communities are living below the poverty line, struggling as their ageing orchards face crop disease outbreaks, yielding less and less cacao fruit. Over decades, a lack of improved germplasm and inputs such as fertilizer have resulted in degraded cocoa landscapes.
With support from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Mars, Inc., the Vision for Change (V4C) project is helping to revitalize the country’s cocoa sector through a combination of agricultural support and community development.
In 2020, an analysis of the factors that influence whether farmers introduce new tree species on their cocoa farms found that the number of new species rose with farmers’ tree planting experience and with how much they expected to benefit from the trees. Farmers mainly selected species that provide shade for cocoa or that yield fruit or other valuable products. When clearing land for cocoa production, farmers spared timber and indigenous and exotic fruit and nut species. This suggests that increasing the number of exotic fruit tree species could help diversify incomes and reduce food and nutritional insecurity in cocoa-producing zones.
V4C continues to search for solutions to cocoa swollen shoot disease (CSSD), which is devastating thousands of hectares of cocoa fields. Without any resistant varieties of cocoa or methods to treat CSSD, farmers are in despair. CIFOR-ICRAF studied on-farm rehabilitation approaches using improved hybrid varieties and elite clones, and examined the potential of biological control and biopesticides to manage mealybugs – the insects that transmit the disease – with promising results.
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Vision for Change (V4C) : Building Sustainable Cocoa Communities in Côte d’Ivoire
Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MINADER), Mars, Inc., Conseil Café – Cacao (Coffee and Cocoa Board), National Center for Agronomic Research (CNRA), National Agency for Rural Development Support (ANADER), Interprofessional Fund for Agricultural Research and Council (FIRCA), National Meteorological Agency (SODEXAM), universities including Félix Houphouët Boigny University (UFHB), Nangui Abrogoua University (UNA), Jean Lorougnon Guédé University (UNILog), Allassane Ouattara University (UAO), Houphouët-Boigny National Polytechnic Institute (INP-HB) and the National School for Applied Economics (ENSEA)
Christophe Kouamé, ICRAF