Farmers in West Africa have been seeing low average yields in recent years, and it’s hurting them.
To understand why this happens, we must first understand how cocoa is produced. Cacao trees are best grown in areas with high humidity, abundant rain, rich soil, protection from the wind, and steady temperatures. As a result, they can grow only in the tropics, 10-20 degrees north and south of the equator, in South and Middle America, West Africa, and tropical Asia.
With the increase in demand for cocoa, farmers have cleared more forests to make room for cacao trees.
Careless deforestation affects the biodiversity of the land and causes the soil to erode.
Eventually, the land cannot grow as much as it used to, or it produces nothing at all. Since farmers don’t grow enough cacao, they are forced to clear more land to grow more.
Deforestation also means an increase in greenhouses gases in the atmosphere, which will trap more heat and cause average temperatures to rise all over the world. Changes in temperatures, as we learned earlier, is not a good thing for cacao trees. It affects the farmers’ yield and productivity, and there are more pests and diseases. All these factors directly affect farmers’ income.
Farmers’ actions not only harm the Earth but also harm themselves. So, what now?
Studies have shown that cacao trees thrive in rainforests. Cacao trees grow in full sun to partial shade. They need at least 3 hours of direct sunlight, but if there is no shade at all, the sun will scorch their leaves.
Planting cacao trees among forests, fruit trees, and other crops is a good way to keep cacao farming sustainable. The soil retains its nutrients, land doesn’t need to be cleared, and cacao farms can produce more beans.
Perhaps an increase of these practices will help cacao farmers meet the demands of the chocolate industry.