Cocoa4Future : Sustainability of production systems and new dynamics in the cocoa sector

Project identifier 197-COCOA4FUTURE
Project Status ongoing
Start date 2020-02-01
End date 2025-01-31
Roadmap Theme
  • Sustainable intensification: Soil, water, land and input management
  • Sustainable intensification: Animal and crop health
  • Type of Project Development and innovation oriented (research) project
    Programme DeSIRA
    Keyword agroforestry; farming system design; advisory services strengthening; plant health
    Location Cote d'Ivoire; Ghana
    Budget 7 000 000
    Main Funder Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO)
    Co Funder Agence Française de Développement (AFD)
    Coordinator Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD)
  • Félix Houphouët-Boigny University
  • Institut National Polytechnique Félix Houphouët-Boigny (INP-HB)
  • Université Nangui Abrogoua
  • University of Ghana
  • Centre Ivoirien de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (CIRES)
  • Université Jean Lorougnon Guedé
  • National Center for Agronomic Research (CNRA)
  • Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG)
  • Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (JRC)
  • Nitidae
  • Association Pisciculture et Développement Rural en Afrique (APDRA)
  • Documents Project description


    Objectives of the Action:

    The overall objective is to enhance the sustainability of cocoa farms while preserving the environment by tailoring cocoa cropping systems to the changing context in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana. Our aim is to contribute to the agroecological transition of cocoa production in these countries by proposing research that will help trigger a shift towards production systems that are in tune with environmental sustainability, economic sustainability, social responsibility, and quality standards, including ethical imperatives.


    In 2017, Côte d'Ivoire achieved a record cocoa production level of t 2 million (42% of world cocoa production). Cocoa provides a livelihood for about a million smallholder farmers in this country and in Ghana, the world's second largest producer. However, this production is taking place against a backdrop of growing pressure on land and forest resources. The historically dominant cocoa production model—based on the expansion of orchards often after total forest clearing and managed using very cheap labour (often migrant workers)—is coming to an end. The current situation may lead to a decline in cocoa production which could be explained by various factors. Indeed, alongside their commitments to protect the last remaining forests from clearing, these two countries are grappling with the problem of ageing cocoa stands and the loss of soil fertility. The goal of rehabilitating former cocoa stands is also hampered by the presence of cocoa swollen-shoot virus (CSSV) and the global climate change (CC) trend which lead to large inter-annual fluctuations in cocoa yields and thus in cocoa farmers' incomes. Climate change is worsening the impact of CSSV and leading to a reduction in areas suitable for cocoa production.

    Meanwhile, Ivorian and Ghanaian cocoa is almost exclusively traded on commodity markets which limits the added value that cocoa farmers could bring to their product. Such a situation does not encourage them to go beyond the chocolate industry's cocoa bean quality requirements and to invest in more sustainable farming systems. Under pressure from civil society and consumers, however, these requirements are becoming more stringent in terms of ethical and environmental quality of cacao. This context leads to the increasing adoption of sustainability and traceability labels and programmes that pledge environmental protection, a ban on child labour and better remuneration for cocoa farmers. However, these social and environmental responsibility tools for chocolate producers have many shortcomings, as observed in the field. These structural weaknesses are compounded by the world cocoa price volatility, even though safeguards exist, such as the minimum farm-gate price set by the Coffee and Cocoa Council (CCC) in Côte d'Ivoire.

    Main activities:

    The Cocoa4Future Action activities will be largely carried out in Côte d'Ivoire, with some also conducted in Ghana. Firstly, a multicriteria assessment of current cocoa farming systems will be conducted to identify the most efficient ones, especially in terms of climate change, resilience and economic performance. It will be combined with the co-design (or re-design) of cocoa farming systems involving tree species associations whose benefits are in line with cocoa farmers' expectations and that could be disseminated by public or private advisory support services.

    Secondly, an activity module will focus on the CSSV. It is indeed essential to measure the impact of plant diversity on mealybug vectors of it and determine the mechanisms involved so as to be able to draw up integrated pest management guidelines, while also contributing to the co-design of cocoa AFS that meet cocoa farmers' expectations in terms of pest and disease control.

    Thirdly, an in situ monitoring system will be set up to identify cocoa farmers' technical and social innovations, practices, constraints and decisions. Collection of this data will help gain further insight into current dynamics and identify existing practices, to draw inspiration from them, and even to disseminate the most efficient practices on a broader scale. We will also identify or co-build more efficient cocoa production systems via diversification (rice growing/fish farming, recovery and efficient use of derivative cocoa AFS products, organic cocoa production, etc.).

    Fourthly, the characteristics of some terroirs in Côte d'Ivoire could yield cocoa with features sought by chocolate makers, thus enhancing its development. The same applies if the positive effect of agroforestry practices on cocoa quality can be demonstrated. Meanwhile, identifying and analysing organizational innovations that enhance the organoleptic and ethical features of Ivorian and Ghanaian cocoa quality will help gain insight into the key factors of quality management, power relations within the sector, as well as how the socio-institutional contexts influence the different forms of quality management, particularly by farmers' organizations. Collection and analysis of this data will thus help to identify socioeconomic sustainability levers that could be used to boost cocoa farmers' incomes.

    Finally, support and advisory services (public or private) will facilitate the dissemination of knowledge and practices identified by research activities to boost innovation. We will therefore investigate whether the advisory services have the methods necessary to support cocoa farmers, or if they need to adjust their intervention procedures or better coordinate their activities in order to improve and strengthen capacities of these farmers.