Smallholder cocoa cultivation in agroforestry systems of West and Central Africa


Duguma
International Center for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF)
IRAD/ICRAF Humid Lowlands of West Africa Research Program (HULWA)
P.O.Box., 2067 (Messa)
Yaounde, Cameroon
J. Gockowski
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) IITA-HFS
P.O.Box., 2008 (Messa)
Yaounde, Cameroon
J. Bakala
Institute of Agricultural Research for Development (IRA)
P.O.Box, 2123 (Messa)
Yaounde, Cameroon
Address for Correspondence:
Duguma, B., IRAD/ICRAF Program, P.O.Box 2067
(Messa), Tel. 237-237560, Fax. 237-237440, Email
Yaounde, Cameroon

Abstract

The cultural features, management practices, environmental sustainability, and economic profitability of smallholder cocoa production in West and Central Africa are reviewed. The aim is to highlight factors affecting the production and marketing sector and to propose appropriate strategies to ensure sustainable and profitable production in the region. The cocoa cultivation system causes minimum damage to soil resources. In terms of carbon sequestration and below- and above-ground bio-diversity, the cocoa agroforest is superior to the competing food crop production land use based on the practice of slash-and-burn. Cocoa is inter-cropped with several high value tree species that provide shade to the cocoa tree and additional income and products for the farmers. Economic profitability analysis of the system in Cameroon showed that even with no value assigned to the inter-cropped species, the sector could still be profitable at current prices. In the late 1980s, the distorted economic policy and unfavorable international trade governing the sector made the system less attractive to the farmers such that many of them abandoned their farms or in some cases cut the trees in order to grow food crops. Technically, the system is environmentally sustainable. The fundamental question is thus what should be the research and development strategy that would enhance profitability and environmental resilience of cocoa production system and minimize risk to the farmers in order to sustain their interest. Based on the current review and our knowledge of the region, there is an urgent need to: a) rationalize and optimize arrangement of the various components in cocoa agroforest, b) domesticate high-value indigenous species and integrate them into the system in order to enhance the system's diversity and profitability; c) develop shade-tolerant and disease-resistant cocoa varieties d) integrate small-stock production into the system, and e) develop an enabling policy environment addressing cocoa marketing, plant protection, land tenure, and transformation of non-cocoa primary products from the cocoa agroforests.

Key words: Sustainable cocoa, humid lowlands, bio-diversity, natural resources, and environment

I. Introduction

West and Central Africa's principal cocoa (Theobroma cacao Linn.) producing countries (in order of importance) are Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Togo. Total annual rainfall of the cocoa growing areas of these countries ranges from 1200mm to 3000mm. The mean minimum temperature is between 20oC to 22oC while the mean maximum during the dry and wet season varies from 31oC to 32oC and 27oC to 29oC, respectively (Wood and Lass, 1987).

Cocoa is one of the most important cash crops and it is grown largely (>80%) by the small-scale farmers of the region (Assoumou, 1977). In 1900, Africa's share of the total world cocoa production was mere 17%. In 1996, total production from the four largest producing countries accounted for 65% of the global output (ICCO, 1997). Compared to other agricultural activities, cocoa has been a leading sub-sector in the economic growth and development of these countries.

However, since the late 1980s, the cocoa sector has been subjected to several major economic shocks that have led to new institutional and organizational frameworks. This was particularly the case with countries such as Cameroon and Côte d'Ivoire whose economies depended heavily on the cocoa sector. The drastic fall in the world cocoa and other commodity prices at the time contributed to a substantial cuts in civil servants salaries, significant (50%) currency devaluation, freezes on employment, tax hikes and a reduction of state employees in both countries. Cocoa farmers and many state employees who lost their jobs or faced salary cuts responded to the crisis by increasing their activity in food crop production to compensate for lost income. This in turn led to a very significant increase in forest clearing with its attendant profound negative environmental, economic and political consequences.

The crop is predominantly cultivated in multi-product and multi-strata agroforests (Leplaideur, 1985; ICRAF, 1987). The multi-product feature of these systems has been developed by farmers to diversify production and minimize risk. At same time it plays a vital role in enhancing bio-diversity and contributing to the reduction of global warming. The cultural practice associated with cocoa production causes minimum damage to the fragile soil resources of the region compared to the equally dominant land use system based on the practice of shifting cultivation.

Technically, there is ample evidence to show that cocoa production in agroforestry systems in humid West and Central Africa is environmentally sustainable. At current (1997) prices, enterprise budgets show that these systems are again economically profitable unlike in recent years. In order to sustain farmer's interest and promote the practice of sustainable cocoa agroforest therefore, deliberate and systematic harmonization of economic policies affecting the sector and improved management system through participatory application of indigenous knowledge and scientific principles is critical. This paper reviews major attributes of the existing cocoa agroforestry systems, associated economic and ecological opportunities and challenges and concludes by offering some suggestions on research needs and management strategies to promote sustainable cocoa production in the region.

 

Cocoa establishment and inter-cropping

The dominant cultural practice of cocoa production in the region involves planting of the trees on a forestland, selectively cleared and planted to various types of food crops for one or two seasons (Leplaideur, 1985; ICRAF, 1987, Duguma and Franzel, 1996; Duguma et al 1990). When land is cleared, indigenous fruit, medicinal, and timber tree species (e.g. groundnut tree (Ricinodendron heudelotii), cola (Cola nitida), Voacanga africana) are deliberately retained both for their economic value and to provide shade for the cocoa plant. The clearing is done manually (with the exception of the use of chain saw to fell big trees) which together with the no-tillage method used when planting, causes minimum or no disturbance to the fragile soils.

In Cameroon, the field is initially planted with a mixture of egussi melon (Cucumeropsis mannii) and maize (Zea mays). C.mannii, a very important food crop (used for condiments) in West Africa, is a climber that grows around the unburned logs thus conserving moisture, increasing humidity and accelerating the process of its decomposition (ICRAF, 1987). After harvesting the food crops, cocoa is inter-planted with maize, plantain (Mussa spp AAA), cassava (Manihot utilissima) and other food crops during subsequent cropping seasons. Inter-cropping with food crops is done to exploit the fertile soil and to increase shade for the cocoa seedlings. The cocoa is left to develop as farmers harvest the seasonal and annual crops as they mature.

Depending on the density of the retained species and the mortality rate of the cocoa seedlings, the system is enriched by planting additional tree crops such as mango (Mangifera indica), African plum (Dacryodes edulis), avocado (Persea americanum), guava (Psidium guajava), cola (Cola nitida), orange (Citrus sinensis), and mandarin (Citrus reticula). Successful inter-cropping of cocoa with coconut (Cocos nucifera), (Leach et al., 1974; Shepered et al., 1977; Ramadasan, et al. 1978) oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) (Hartley, 1966;Amoah et al., 1995), and rubber (Hevea brasiliensis) (Egbe and Adenikinju, 1990) is well documented. As the cocoa tree and the other components grow to maturity, the system evolves to a closed canopy multi-strata system that resembles natural forest with most of the positive attributes associated with it.

Yet several studies have reported that there is enormous potential to further diversify and enhance productivity and environmental resilience of the tree-based cropping systems of the region, including the cocoa agroforests (ICRAF, 1987, Duguma et al., 1990, Duguma, B., 1994; Tchatat, 1996, Leakey, in press). Most of the indigenous and exotic tree species grown in the system are unimproved genetically. There has been a little systematic research effort to improve the genetic base to enhance product quality and quantity or to identify pest- and disease-resistant strains. Many of the indigenous species have not been successfully propagated even by research. Research is therefore needed to address the selection, cultivation and other related issues to make sustainable cocoa more attractive to farmers.

 

Management requirement

The major management requirements of cocoa agroforest are shade control, weeding, pest and disease control, harvesting of pods and processing of beans (Wessel, 1987). According to Wessel, (1987), the role of shade in the management of cocoa agroforests is rather complex as it affects or is related to several other growth factors. It reduces light intensity, temperature and air movement, and influences relative humidity which indirectly affect photosynthesis and pest and disease management. Several reports suggest that, all other factors being equal, a level of shade that allows 20 to 30% of full light to reach the cocoa is needed for optimum growth and productivity (Lemée, 1955; Okali and Owusu, 1975). It should be noted however, that depending on the age of the tree and the intensity of light, there could be a significant variation in the level of shade requirement. This may vary from place to place and even from provenance to provenance. Farmers in West Africa are quite familiar with the importance of shade in cocoa cultivation but they receive little assistance, if any, on how to better manage shade at various stages of the plant development.

The most severe problem faced by cocoa farmers in the region is pest and disease control. At a global level, yield loss due to disease is estimated at about 30% (Padwick, 1956). In West Africa, it ranges from 10 to 80% (10 to 30% in Côte d'Ivoire, 30 to 50% in Ghana and Togo, and 50 to 80% in Cameroon (Lass, 1987; Nyasse, 1997; Bakala and Kone, 1998). Among the several diseases that are responsible for such loss, black pod (Phytophthora species) is the most important (Bakala, 1981; Lass, 1987). Similarly, several insects are reported to attack different parts of the plant at different stages of development. In West Africa, the insects of the family Miridae, also known as capsids are the most important and widely represented insect pest of cocoa (Entwistle, 1987; Bakala and Kone, 1998).

Depending on the prevailing climatic conditions in a given area, chemicals, cultural practices or biological control methods can be used to control cocoa pests and diseases. Enhancing air circulation through regular weeding and pruning, ensuring there is adequate drainage, and removing pod husks immediately after harvesting and extracting the beans are some of the cultural practices recommended (Muller, 1974; Maddison and Griffin, 1981). Copper-based fungicides are also reported to be very effective to control Phytophtora pod rot (Bakala and Kone, 1998).

Cocoa farmers in West and Central Africa have typically received subsidies and state support to control pest and disease. Cameroon is a case in point. Until the early 1990s, the government provided fungicides at no cost to the farmers and treated their plantations with insecticides. The cost for the service was recovered through a state controlled cocoa marketing system. Following the fall in price and subsequent liberalization of the marketing sector, the government discontinued the service. In the depressed cocoa markets, farmers were unwilling to pay for inputs or if they were willing, they had difficulty finding private suppliers. Consequently, cocoa production suffered of neglect and in some cases was abandoned (Losch et al., 1990). When devaluation of the FCFA occurred in 1994, the weak institutional development of privatized input market liberalized in 1992 inhibited a strong supply response; in contrast to Côte d'Ivoire where current production of 1.1 million tons is double the level in 1993. Developing cost effective and environmentally sustainable integrated pest and disease management is thus a possible strategy towards promoting cocoa agroforests. Equally important is the need to minimize risk to farmers' at times of drastic institutional changes and fall in commodity price.

 

Bio-physical attributes and environmental implications.

Food crop production based on the practice of slash-and-burn or shifting cultivation and tree based cropping or agroforests are the two dominant land use systems in West and Central Africa (ICRAF, 1987; Duguma et al., 1990; Duguma and Franzel, 1996). The practice of slash-and-burn to open up land for food crop cultivation destroys the vegetation and, exposes the soil to harsh climatic factors (intense solar radiation and heavy raindrops), thus leading to disruption of the closed nutrient cycle. Burning the vegetation after clear felling increases both soil and air temperature (Ahn, 1974; Lal et al., 1975) resulting in significant changes in soil biological activities. Soon after burning, exchangeable base, available phosphorus, organic matter, and soil pH values increase temporarily (Jha et al., 1979; Sanchez and Salinas, 1981; IRA/ICRAF, 1996) and benefit the 1st or 2nd crop considerably (Nair, 1984). In subsequent years however, crop yields decline drastically due to soil fertility depletion, increased weed infestation, deterioration of soil physical properties and increased insect and disease attack (Sanchez, 1976). These are the main reasons why farmers crop a newly opened forestland only for 2 or 3 seasons before reverting it to fallow (ranging from 3 to > 20 years).

By contrast, cocoa agroforests, in which the process begins with partial clearing and burning and involves cultivation of cocoa and other tree crops, remain productive and environmentally sustainable for up to 50 years, at a level comparable to long-term fallows or primary forests. In natural forest, the plant nutrients are tied up in the above- and below ground vegetation, litter and the thin layer (0 to 20 cm) of topsoil and recycled in a closed energy system. Cocoa agroforests, unlike the annual crop fields, approach this system.

Out of the 15 million hectares of the world's primary forest that is destroyed each year (ICRAF, 1995), the practice of shifting cultivation is reported to account for over 60% (ICRAF, 1995; FAO, 1997) and contributes to a significant loss in above and below ground bio-diversity. To contain the problem, protectionist policies (such as establishing forest reserves or national parks) were promoted for a long time (ICRAF, 1995). However, at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, held in 1992, world leaders recognized the need to complement protectionist policies with a focus on the human dimension. This was reflected in 2 statements in Agenda 21, which read " to limit and aim to halt destructive shifting cultivation by addressing the underlying social and ecological causes" and "to reduce damage to forest by promoting sustainable management of areas adjacent to the forest". Out of this concern, a global program called The Alternative to Slash-and-Burn (ASB) was born. The program, operational since 1995 in Cameroon, characterized and evaluated environmental parameters in various land use systems, including the cocoa agroforests. Its aim is to take stock of the environmental dimensions of various land use systems with a view to identifying or developing long-term best-bet alternatives.

One of the parameters measured was total vegetation biomass in primary forest, food crop fields, short- to long-term fallows (land left idle after 1 or 2 cropping cycles to naturally regenerate soil fertility), and cocoa agroforests. The result showed that total biomass in cocoa agroforests (304 t ha-1) was by far greater than that in food crop fields (85 t ha-1) and ranked third after the biomass in primary forests (541 t ha-1) and long-term fallows (460 t ha-1) (Table 1) (IRAD, 1997). Comparative assessment of selected top soil nutrients in secondary forests and cocoa-dominated tree based home gardens of southern Cameroon also showed that soil pH, organic matter, calcium and magnesium are greater in cocoa dominated home gardens, compared to that in secondary forest (Table 2) (ICRAF, 1996). According to Kotto-Same et al., (1997), cocoa agroforests contained 62% of the carbon stock found in primary forest. Above-ground plant bio-diversity and below-ground micro-fauna in the cocoa agroforests are also reported to be greater than that in crop fields, comparable to those in short- and mid-term fallows and 2nd to that in primary forests (IRAD, 1997; Zapfac, personal communication). According to ICRAF et al., 1997, studies conducted in Sumatra, Indonesia show that, if compared to natural forests, biodiversity levels in rubber and damar resin agroforests reach 50% for plants (30% for trees, 50% for treelets and epiphytes, 50 to 95% for lianas and 100% for undergrowth plants), 60% for birds and close to 100% for soil mesofauna.

It can be concluded that the cocoa agroforests land use systems are superior to the competing food crop production systems in terms of environmental indices and natural resource management parameters reviewed. Its full benefit can, however, be realized only if it remains economically attractive to smallholder farmers. This requires a significant improvement in management, policy and economic spheres as it affects the system.

 

Socioeconomic and policy features of small holder cocoa with particular reference to the Cameroon case.

Government interventions in the cocoa sector have been numerous across West Africa. In recent years however, at the bequest of the World Bank and the International Monitory Fund (IMF), many governments have began to loosen controls on the sector. In Cameroon, despite the decline in world prices, cocoa remains the most important cash crop in terms of value and volume produced. In addition to the export of beans, processed cocoa butter and paste accounts for approximately 15% of the FOB export value in the cocoa sector compared to robusta coffee whose export represents almost no added value (UNCTAD, 1995). From 1996 to 1997, the ASB Program of Cameroon evaluated the effect of economic and political impact on smallholder cocoa production in southern Cameroon; the major findings of which are provided below (See Gockowski et al., 1997 for details).

From independence in 1960 until 1991, cocoa marketing was subjected to heavy state involvement administered through the dictates of the Office National de Commercalisation des Prodits de Base (ONCPB). National producer prices and fixed marketing margins (le bareme) were determined annually by the ONCPB. Licensed agents were given exclusive buying rights on a regional basis. On average, from 1961 until 1988, the official producer price was only 50% of the FOB price (Gockowski et al., 1997). The difference between the fixed marketing margins plus the official produce price and the FOB price was in principle, paid into the stabilization fund for supporting prices in years when the world market was characterized by low prices. The fund was also used to finance imports of chemicals to control pest and disease. The chemicals were distributed either free or at heavily subsidized prices through the extension service of the Ministry of Agriculture until the early 1990s

When world prices weakened in 1987, and remained depressed through the mid-1990s, the reserves of the cocoa stabilization fund that had been used as a source of financing various state enterprises and parastatals outside the cocoa sector were limited. Consequently, in September of 1989 the official price of cocoa was slashed from 420 FCFA to 250 FCFA kg-1. With the Cameroon economy in its worst crisis since independence, the government began negotiating a structural adjustment package with the World Bank and the IMF in 1988. One of the conditions of the package was the dissolution of the ONCPB and the liberalization of export crop marketing in the cocoa and coffee sectors. In 1992, the ONCPB, with its 2800 employees was replaced by the Office National de Cacao et Café (ONCC) with a staff of 157 and a strictly regulatory mandate (Gockowski 1994). Meanwhile, as a result of the persistent weak world market price of cocoa and an over valued currency, producer prices continued to deteriorate. Consequently, the distribution of fungicides and insecticides by the state agents of the Societé de Developpement du Cacao (SODECAO) ended in 1992.

Unlike the gradual phase out of fertilizer subsidies (fertilizers are used mainly by coffee producers) and the financial support given to private fertilizer suppliers, the liberalization of pesticides was abrupt. Consequently farmers now have a very difficult time procuring fungicides or pesticides under the new liberal regime. This, combined with low producer prices through 1996 turned many producers to alternative sources of agricultural revenues, mainly food crop production using slash-and-burn or shifting cultivation techniques. At the same time that liberalization was sweeping the marketing side of the cocoa sector, producers were encouraged to organize themselves into "common initiative groups" (GICs). The purpose was to enable them to market their product in bulk lots. The reform that enabled the formation of these GICs has been relatively successful and has helped to lower assembly and transaction costs and increased producer prices for group members.

In 1998, 6 years after liberalization, adjustment costs are still occurring. Many producers who used to rely on state-sponsored pest and disease control have failed to treat their crops, which if left uncontrolled can seriously erode the productive potential of a cocoa agroforest. In addition to the adjustment costs, the sector is still subject to a 13% export tax while fertilizer and pesticide imports are subject to a 6.5% tariff duty. As a result of all the above, both the quality and the quantity of cocoa produced by smallholders in Cameroon have stagnated since the mid-1980s. Cameroon cocoa, which once received a quality premium on the world market, is now discounted because of this deterioration. However, in 1997 world cocoa prices rebounded somewhat (producer prices varied between 600 and 700 FCFA) and for the first time in quite awhile, farmers once again, considered cocoa growing to be a profitable activity. Any strategy, aimed at promoting the concept of sustainable cocoa therefore needs to be holistic in approach and local and international policies and economic factors must be given equal attention with technical or management feasibility.

 

Economic profitability and sustainability of small holder cocoa production in Cameroon

It is estimated that there are over 400,000 households producing cocoa (Losch et al., 1994) in Cameroon. With the low world prices prevailing over the past 10 years (see figure 1), the economic sustainability of the systems has been in serious question. Given the importance of the sector on one hand and the recent depressed world cocoa market on the other, the current economic sustainability of cocoa agroforests was evaluated. Profitability analysis was conducted for three production systems (representative of various small farmer circumstances) and the impact of current government policies was assessed. An ex post analysis of the effect of the 1994 devaluation of the FCFA on profitability of the three systems is included in the policy analysis. Costs and returns from establishment to 26 years were estimated for all systems. Management intensity and the possibility of commercializing secondary fruit products distinguish the three systems. The three variants are as follows:

1. Low input intensity with commercial fruit tree production. Cocoa management practices for this system are typical of the extensive smallholder agroforest. Locally available land race cocoa varieties (Forastero) are used. The only purchased input is a metalaxyl-copper fungicide applied at a rate of 4 applications per year. From 9 to 26 years the average cocoa yield is assumed to be 264 kg ha-1. No chemical control of capsids is considered. This is a multi-product commercial system that includes associated fruit trees. Contributing to financial returns besides cocoa are mandarin, avocado, African plum, and mango each at a density of 4 trees ha-1. Age-yield profiles assumed for the fruit trees and cocoa are presented in Figures 2 & 3. The commercial marketing of the fruit tree components presumes that this system has relatively good linkages to urban markets. Many more intensively managed cocoa systems were shifted to this type of low intensity management regime when cocoa prices fell in the late 1980s (Losch, et al., 1990).

2. Low input system with no commercial fruit tree component. Management practices and yield assumptions for cocoa in this system are identical to those above. The main distinction is that the costs of marketing inhibit commercialization of fruit production and therefore is not included as a revenue item. This assumption is particularly relevant to the remote areas distant to urban markets.

3. Medium input intensity with commercial fruit tree production. Management practices for this system are more intense than the typical extensive systems that predominate elsewhere. Hybrid cocoa varieties are subjected to increased phytopathological control (8 applications of metalaxyl-copper fungicides and 2 applications to control capsids). Yields of 500 kg ha-1 from 9 to 26 years are assumed. This type of intensified system characterizes much of the production in the Lékié Division (near Yaoundé), the Moungo Division (near Douala), and the Fako and Meme Divisions of the Southwest Province of Cameroon (Losch et al., 1990). Together the production in these Divisions accounts for between 40 to 50 % of total national output (MINAGRI annual production statistics as reported in Losch and others, 1990). The intensified management in these areas is often associated with high rural population pressures.

Profitability was assessed and compared through the use of policy analysis matrices (PAMs) (Monke and Pearson, 1989). PAMs provide a partial equilibrium methodology for evaluating the effects of government policies on the revenues and costs of a given production system. It also allows evaluation of competitiveness on world markets.

The central concept of a PAM is the comparison of profitability measures using financial (or farmer) prices which include price distortions on inputs and outputs due to taxes, subsidies, non-tariff trade barriers, and imperfectly competitive markets and economic or social prices which reflect the cost to the economy. Economic prices are calculated as the FOB/CIF border price of exports/imports adjusted for internal transportation costs and misalignments of the real exchange rate. Currently there are three fiscal policies that result in a divergence of economic and financial prices. These are a 10% ad valorem tax on cocoa, a 17% turnover tax (exemptions for pesticides, fertilizers and agricultural commodities) and a 6.5% ad valorem import tax on pesticides and fertilizers.

Examining the baseline set of results for 1997 shows that all three systems earned positive financial profits (returns to land and management) at the financial output price of 600 FCFA which prevailed in 1997 (Table 3). As indicated by effective protection coefficients (EPC) that were less than one, the net effect of government policies were taxing (Table 4). The net present values point to the intensive production system as most competitive and profitable on a per hectare basis. The 359,000 FCFA ha-1 (USD $620) contribution of fruit tree revenues in the low input intensity system was substantial. Sensitivity analysis on the price of cocoa was conducted to find the breakeven financial price of cocoa (NPV=0). For the low input system with no fruit tree revenue the breakeven price was 555 FCFA kg-1 vs. 288 FCFA kg-1 for the low input system with fruit trees and 260 FCFA kg-1 for the medium intensity system. From the analysis we can conclude that the low input systems without fruit tree diversification are marginally profitable at current prices and would have earned losses from 1994 to 1996 when prices were in the range of 350-450 FCFA kg-1.

We also examined the impact of a misalignment (over appreciation) of the exchange rate. This was estimated to be the situation in the early 1990s before the devaluation of the franc CFA in January 1994. Under this scenario, where we assume that the currency is over appreciated by 50%, economic prices are unchanged. In all cases the financial profitability declines significantly and the low input system without fruit trees earns negative financial profits (Table 5). The EPCs all decrease substantially underlining the increase in the implicit taxation of export producers that occurs as exchange rates are allowed to get out of line (Table 4). We conclude that the 50% devaluation substantially improved the financial sustainability of cocoa production in the area. This example is illustrative of the negative impact on the financial profitability that a real exchange rate misalignment can have

There have been recent rumblings of another possible devaluation as France and Europe head to a common European currency. Downward pressure on the FCFA is also a likely result of the recent depreciation of currencies in Southeast Asia. Many of these countries are major competitors with West and Central Africa in world cocoa, robusta coffee, tropical timbers, natural rubber, and oil palm markets. If Asian currencies remain at their current levels the FCFA and other currencies of the region might have to adjust in order to maintain competitiveness.

 

Discussion and conclusions.

From an environmental perspective, the above review clearly suggests that cocoa agroforests are superior to the competing food crop production system based on the practice of shifting cultivation. The initial land clearing and preparation causes minimal or no damage to the soil resources. As it offers the opportunity to inter-crop several other woody and non-woody species, the system is by far preferable for in-situ plant bio-diversity conservation compared to slash-and-burn agriculture. Unlike the food crop production system that involves rotating of cropping fields thus requiring large areas for agriculture at the expense of forest destruction, cocoa agroforests are semi-permanent or permanent. This also means better protection of and improvement in soil organisms or below ground bio-diversity over time.

The economic profitability analysis confirms that cocoa agroforests are profitable under all the scenarios considered. This is despite the fact that the value of several other important products was not included in the analysis. In estimating the value and economic profitability of other cocoa agroforests, only the conventional fruit tree species such as citrus and mango were included. The important ecological and environmental functions and the value of the many indigenous timber, medicinal, fruit and food species that are often found providing shade have not been captured by these budgets. Lumber from trees in cocoa plantations is commonly used for local construction purposes and is particularly important in areas where the natural forests no longer exists. Likewise, the budgets do not account for the important role of these plantations in the local pharmacopoeia. Trees such as Alstonia boonei whose bark is used in the treatment of malaria are commonly preserved in these agroforests. This role becomes more important in areas where the natural forest no longer exists.

One of the most significant conclusions of the economic profitability analysis is that the role of fruit tree production in these cocoa plantations is very important for their economic sustainability and stability. The breakeven sensitivity analysis on the price of cocoa over the 3 systems modeled illustrates this clearly. Analysis of a possible devaluation showed that cocoa farmers are much better off after a devaluation contrary to the argument sometimes made that their welfare is unchanged because input prices rise along with output prices. Tradable inputs represent only about 25% of total costs (the rest consisting mainly of labor) and therefore the increase in costs is considerably less than the increase in output revenue from tradable.

The result of economic policy analysis also showed that the level of taxation in total is not large and has fallen significantly from the days of official producer prices when the nominal protection coefficient on output was around 0.60. Nonetheless, further reductions in the level of taxation could still generate significant revenues for cocoa producers and would serve to ensure the economic, ecological and environmental role of these systems in the landscape of southern Cameroon.

The negative impact of government's production and marketing control of cocoa and of the erratic world market price on farmers welfare, the national economy and the regions most treasured natural resource -the rain forest-, could not have been better demonstrated than what was observed in the region between 1985 and 1996. To some extent, the steps taken to minimize the impact, though slightly slow, have been very encouraging. On the part of the government, minimizing control by allowing farmers to organize themselves in groups in order to market their products is a significant positive step. However, a safe guard is needed to ensure that the better-organized group -the exporters-, will not dictate the price unilaterally at the disadvantage of the producers.

Most of both the exotic and indigenous tree species managed in the cocoa agroforests are from the wild or are land races and were not selected based on genetic quality. In order to improve profitability of the system and thus promote sustainable cocoa, genetic improvement research on almost all the components can not be over emphasized. In fact, there are several high value fruit and medicinal tree species in the rain forest of the region that are currently exploited in the wild. These species are reported to have tremendous potential for domestication and inclusion in the cocoa-based agroforests of the region (Duguma, et al., 1990; Okafor and Lamp, 1994; Leakey, in press, Ayuk, et al., in press a-c). Currently, the products from these species are consumed or traded locally with very limited market opportunities. Research aimed at identifying new markets and transforming such products to value-added goods through close collaboration with the private sector in industrialized countries would enhance the economic opportunities for sustainable cocoa production systems (ICRAF, 1997; Leakey and Izac, 1996). Livestock has been successfully integrated into tree crops in experimental stations in humid troics of Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana (Mack, 1989; Fianu et al., 1994). This could also be considered to further intensify the cocoa agroforests without degrading the natural resource base.

Finally, regarding the cocoa research, reorientation of the breeding program to develop disease resistant, and shade-tolerant varieties is necessary to reduce management and maintenance costs of the system and make it economically attractive to the farmers. Farmers adopted the cocoa inter-cropping system on their own with little or no input from research institutes. While researchers have much to learn about these complex systems from farmers, an area of potential effort that could improve the productivity of the cocoa agroforest might lie in the rationalization and optimal arrangement of tree spacing. The summary of our suggestions in the above conclusions is provided in Table 6.

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Drs A. Adesina, E. Ayuk, O. Ndoye, Z. Tchoundjeu, J. Tonye, Mr. P. Tonje and Mrs.D. Lodoen for assistance in the review of the draft of this paper and insightful comments.

References

Table 1. Total vegetation biomass (t ha-1) in various land use systems in Mekoe, southern Cameroon

 Land use

 Biomass in t ha-1

 

 Tree  Underst.  Litter  Root  Total
 Primary forest  485  2.9  8.7  44.6  541.2
 Food Crop field  45  7.56  -  32.7  85.3
 Young fallow (<5Y)  -  2.6  11.8  27.7  42.1
 Mid fallow (5 to 10 Y)  54  4.5  14.16  34.6  107.3
 Old fallow (10 to 20 Y)  400  4.28  12.3  44.2  460.7
 Cocoa agroforest (26 Y)  250  1.6  11.7  41.2  304.4

Source: IRAD, 1997

 

Table 2. Selected soil properties at 0 to 20cm depth in cocoa dominated home gardens and secondary forest in southern Cameroon

 Study site  Soil properties

 

    PH (1:1 water:soil)  Org. matt. (%)  Ca

(Cmolc kg-1)

 Mg

(Cmolc kg-1)

 K

(Cmolc kg-1)

 

    Hg  Sf

Hg

 Sf  Hg  Sf  Hg  Sf  Hg  Sf
 Yaounde  6.9  5.2  4.4  2.5  10.8  2.6  2.1  1.0

0.4

 0.11
 Mbalmayo  6.8  6.5  4.1  4.8  11.4  5.2  2.0  1.8  0.6  0.15
 Ebolowa  6.5  4.8  4.7  3.2  11.8  3.0  2.5  0.9  1.4  0.15

Source: ICRAF, 1996

Hg: Cocoa dominated Home garden

Sg: Seondary forest

 

Table 3. Policy analysis matrix of three smallholder cocoa systems in Cameroon, 1997.

     Discounted Costs of Production  

 

 Gross Revenue  Tradeable Inputs  Domestic Factors  Total Cost  Discounted Net Present Value
Low Input w/o Fruit Trees

Financial Prices

 1,004,223  194,469  747,721  942,190  62,032
Economic Prices

1,094,414

173,542

738,054

911,596

182,817

Low Input w/ Fruit Trees

Financial Prices

 1,399,544

 194,469

 783,753

 978,222

 421,321

Economic Prices

1,489,735

173,542

774,177

947,629

542,105

Med. Input w/ Fruit Trees

Financial Prices

 2,105,633

411,169

 834,397

 1,245,566

 860,066

Economic Prices

2,274,279

373,790

831,671

1,205,462

1,068,817

 

Table 4. Trade protectionism and domestic resource cost ratios of cocoa agroforests in Cameroon for 1997 baseline and misaligned exchange rate scenario

 

    Domestic Resource Cost Ratio

Effective Protection Coefficient

   Baseline 1997 Exchange

Rate Effect

Baseline 1997 Exchange

Rate Effect

Low Input w/o Fruit

0.801

0.801

0.879

0.544

Low Input w/ Fruit

0.588

0.588

0.915

0.681

Med Input w/Fruit

0.438

0.438

0.892

0.655

 

Table 5. Policy analysis matrix of Cameroon smallholder cocoa systems under the assumption of a 50% real exchange rate overappreciation.

     Discounted Costs of Production  

 

 System type  Gross Revenue Tradeable Inputs Domestic Factors Total Cost  Discounted Net Present Value
Low Input w/o Fruit Trees

Financial Prices

 598,361  97,235  747,177  844,956  -246,594
Economic Prices

1,094,414

173,542

738,054

911,596

182,817

Low Input w Fruit Trees

Financial Prices

 993,682

97,235

 783,753

 880,988

 112,694

Economic Prices

1,489,735

173,542

774,177

947,629

542,105

Med. Input w/ Fruit Trees

Financial Prices

 1,503,446

 204,333

 933,827

 1,138,160

 365,286

Economic Prices

2,274,279

373,790

831,671

1,205,462

1,068,817

 

Table 6. A matrix showing current knowledge base and recommendations related to sustainable cocoa production in west and central Africa.

Three Axes of Sustainability

 State of Knowledge  Minimizing environmental degradation amd maximizing biological diversity Improving long-term yields  Improving the livelihood of small-scale producers
 What we know - based on information and research that we know has been done and should be taken advantage of in order to improve long-term yields and small-scale producers' welfare while maximizing bio-diversity and reducing environmental degradation •Tree establishment method causes minimum damage to growth resources

•The system is permanent thus less requirement for periodic forest clearing

•No information on impact on climate

•Sustainable yield for up to more than 25 years with little or no systematic election of genetic material or breeding

•Substantial yield loss (>30%) because of pest and disease

 •The system is an important source of several products for house hold needs

•Farmers welfare negatively impacted on by distorted national policies and fall in international market price

What we think we know - strategies based on data that look good, but which need more work (more replicates, greater geographic coverage, comparative studies, etc) to figure out unanswered question •The system maximizes above and below ground bio-diversity compared to other systems based on the practice of slash-and-burn or fallow management •Long-term sustainable and increased yield of non cocoa products in the system

•Significant decrease in yield loss through appropriate plant protection strategy

•Although very marginal, it can still be profitable and contribute to farmers' welfare.

•Farmers still perceive as main source of cash income

 What we think is worth pursuing because of some gut instinct or wacky observations - innovative management approaches or strategies for which there are no data (or very little data) currently, but which we believe might work to make production sustainable •Domestication and integration into the system of wild but high value indigenous species to enhance productivity, minimize risk and maximize bio-diversity  •Systematic genetic selection and breeding of cocoa and other components based on indigenous knowledge and scientific principles for disease resistant, shade tolerant, longevity and high yielding varieties. •Domestication and integration into the system of wild but high value indigenous species to enhance productivity, profitability and minimize risk

•Policy to cover cost to the farmer for benefits to the society

Recommend.  •Asses systems impact on bio-diversity, climate change, and water and soil resources management relative to other land use systems at higher temporal and special scales.

•Research on rationalization of species composition and orientation (type and density).

•Genetic selection, cloning, and breeding for the above with full farmers participation

•Research to identify cost effective and environmental friendly plant protection strategy

•Develop a system that would allow Livestock integration.

•Expand market opportunities through transformation of primary products to high value goods and services

•Develop national and international policies that would guard against the erosion of farmer's livelihood as a result of fluctuation in world market price.

 

Figure 3. Yield profile of fermented and dried cocoa beans by tree age, southern Cameroon.