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Exploring barriers to agroforestry adoption by cocoa farmers in south-western Côte d’Ivoire

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Agroforestry is part of the package of good agricultural practices (GAPs) referred to as a reference to basic environmental and operational conditions necessary for the safe, healthy, and sustainable production of cocoa. Furthermore, cocoa agroforestry is one of the most effective nature-based solutions to address global change including land degradation, nutrient depletion, climate change, biodiversity loss, food and nutrition insecurity, and rural poverty and current cocoa supply chain issues. This study was carried out in South-Western Côte d’Ivoire through a household survey to assess the willingness of cocoa farmers to adopt cocoa agroforestry, a key step towards achieving sustainability in the cocoa supply chain markedly threatened by all types of biophysical and socio-economic challenges. In total, 910 cocoa households were randomly selected and individually interviewed using a structured questionnaire. Findings revealed that from the overwhelming proportion of farmers practicing full-sun cocoa farming with little or no companion trees associated, 50.2 to 82.1% were willing to plant and to keep fewer than 20 trees per ha in their farms for more than 20 years after planting. The most preferred trees provide a range of ecosystem services, including timber and food production, as well as shade regulation. More than half of the interviewed households considered keeping in their trees in their plantations for more than 20 years subject to the existence of a formal contract to protect their rights and tree ownership. This opinion is significantly affected by age, gender, access to seedlings of companion trees and financial resources. A bold step forward towards transitioning to cocoa agroforestry and thereby agroecological intensification lies in (i) solving the issue of land tenure and tree ownership by raising awareness about the new forest code and, particularly, the understanding of cocoa agroforestry, (ii) highlighting the added value of trees in cocoa lands, and (iii) facilitating access to improved cocoa companion tree materials and incentives. Trends emerged from this six-year-old study about potential obstacles likely to impede the adoption of agroforestry by cocoa farmers meet the conclusions of several studies recently rolled out in the same region for a sustainable cocoa sector, thereby confirming that not only the relevance of this work but also its contribution to paving the way for the promotion of agroecological transition in cocoa farming. © 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

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