Thursday, March 2, 2017

Cacao: Agroforestry versus Monoculture

A recent study conducted in Bolivia explored the production and economics of cacao. While they took yield into consideration they also looked at profitability and nutrition health of the farmers and their families. We encourage you to read the linked article and utilize the discussion points below to guide conversations in your classrooms, coffee shops, and communities around the world!

Cacao Agroforestry Systems Increase Farmers' Income

Discussion Points

  • Explain the two production practices of agroforestry and monoculture systems.
  • Briefly discuss cacao production trends over the past couple years and where it is grown around the world.
  • This study found that even though cacao yields decreased in agroforestry systems when compared to monoculture systems overall agroforestry systems achieved higher profits and better nutrition for the farmers and their families. How can this be explained?
  • This study looked at conventional versus organic cacao production as well. Discuss the findings in this area.
  • What is your major takeaway from this study and why?

32 comments:

Cassidy Johnson said...

Over the past several years cacao demand and production has skyrocketed. Since 2004 the organic cultivated area has grown to over six times its original size. Over 60% of the world's cacao supply comes from Latin America. This great expansion has been able to take place do to two farming methods (agroforestry and monoculture) that are being researched in Bolivia, a major cacao producing Latin American country. Agroforestry is intensive land management system that optimizes the benefits from the biological interactions created when trees and/or shrubs are deliberately combined with crops and/or livestock. In simpler terms, agroforestry is the practice of growing several trees and shrubs all amongst each other with livestock roaming around. The produce that falls off the trees and shrubs feeds the livestock, and the livestock waste fertilizes the crops. Where as, monoculture is the practice of only growing one isolated crop at a time in one area, there is no cohabitating of crops and animals. After reading this article and doing some independent research it is my opinion that agroforestry is the better of the two options. Even though cacao yields decreased in agroforestry systems by up to 40% compared to the monoculture systems, the agroforestry systems still achieved higher profits and better nutrition for the farmers and their families. While this conclusion seems odd and unexplainable there is quite a simple answer. The reason the monoculture system had higher revenue from cacao sales is because the monoculture system only grew cacao, so naturally all of its revenue would be from cacao. Whereas, the agroforestry system grew several crops such as cacao, bananas, and plantains along with livestock. It makes sense that the agroforestry system did not make as much revenue from cacao as the monoculture system did. The agroforestry system is also generating revenue from several other crops and livestock as well which makes up for the lack of cacao. Agroforestry is great for the people of Bolivia for two reasons. One reason being that is is an increased income for the farmers, because with more crop production there is more to sell while still having enough to eat. This creates more food security then there has been in the past, because agroforestry deals with a variety of different crops and livestock allowing the people to obtain more vitamins and nutrients from the various food options. C.R.J.-Somonauk

Unknown said...

More than 300,000 hectares of organic cacao are grown world wide, and 60% of that is grown in Latin America. Though in monoculture about 40% more cacao is grown,50% lower than organic farming.

BD said...

My biggest takeaway from the agroforestry and monoculture article was that agroforestry is the better option of the two. Agroforestry offers more income, food security and biodiversity, even though it takes more work to have an agroforestry farm you get more back in return

BV said...

More then 300,000 hectares of organic cacao are grown world wide 60% in grown in Latin america, 50% is lower then organic farming.

Devon said...

i think that with the different changes of what the cacao of what is prodeust a amount of what the caueas of the end of what is growned

brent said...

Agroforestry yields 40% more than mono thats the takeaway because it produces more and provides more income for the farmers.

Mason Rstom said...

The major takeaway I have is that going into monoculture can be good for a short period to make quick money but long term probably not a good idea if a sudden drop in the market were to happen all your profits would drop but if you were to go into agroforestry you would have a little bit of a cushion if that were to happen. Even if it requires more labor it is a good idea in the long run for their farms.

jenna wood said...

More than 300,000 hectares of organic cacao are grown worldwide. The total cultivated area has grown by about 20% reaching up to 10 million hectares today

laroyer said...

Agroforestry is incorporating the cultivation and conservation of trees. They were growing cacao trees with shade and trees without shade. While on the other hand monoculture is the cultivation of a single crop in a given area.

nick said...

agroforestery offers more income food security and they are very labor intensive because they have to manage the shade trees. they have different types of trees planted in one area. monoculture is were they only grow one plant. cacao plant yeailds were nearly 50% lower under organic farming.

Safrancis said...

Agroforestry is the conservation or growing of trees. Monoculture is the growing of a single crop. The Cocao demand has risen greatly since 2004, and cultivated areas have expanded to fit the amount of crop needed to appease the demand. Agroforestry has been shifted to Monoculture and they are solely growing cocao trees vs. before where shade trees, bananas or plantains were grown together creating biodiversity in the area. Here in Iowa, our biodiversity has depleted because we switch from growing corn or soybeans. Latin America has produced less bio diverse products because of their growth of only cocao.

Brandon K said...

Cocoa production over time has been getting decreased due to the needs just keep growing while the production stays close to the same and mst of it is grown in latin america

Chad smith99 said...

The Cocao demand has risen since 2004, and farmers have now expanded there farms so that they can grow more of the food. which is pretty cool how they can just expand

Josh Swenson said...

The switch to agroforestry was a good idea because it helps support more ecosystems than the monocultures did.

MH said...

Monoculture can be good for short term business but might not work as well for long term. Agroforestry would be a better option offers more food security and better income

cory gustafson said...

Cocoa plant is a very good asset to the world

MRK said...

I believe that Agroforestry is a better option than Monoculture, due to the agroforestry option being able to grow not only cocoa trees, but also other crops and trees. Whereas the monoculture option is only able to grow cocoa trees. Also, agroforestry gives more income, food security, and biodiversity, and is also a organic farming works well with agroforestry. Therefore, i believe that agroforestry is a better option than monoculture.

IG said...

60% percent of Cocoa is grown in Latin america and it has gone up by 20% which now is at 10 million hectares. One hectare is equivalent to 100 acres

unknown said...

the biggest takeaway I have is that going into monoculture can be good for a short period to make quick money but long term probably not a good idea if a sudden drop in the market were to happen all your profits would drop

G.C said...

The crop Cacao is in high demand and is increasing. Most farmers are used to using agroforestry to produce this crop but many are implementing the use of monoculture. Agroforestry is basically growing multiple different kinds of crops like bananas, cacao, and coconuts all at the same time. Monoculture on the other hand, would be growing just one crop like cacao. While many are saying that monoculture should be used to grow cacao because it can increase the yield to 40%, there is more too it than just increasing the yields for farmers. Agroforestry although more labor intensive, gives farmers the ability to have more of a variety in foods and contributes to the food security of the people around them. It is understandable that growing cacao by itself will increase the amount because the farmer is easily able to focus on the needs of the single type of crop. While in Agroforestry the farmer has to meet in the middle of the needs of the different types of crops. Although they will not have a huge yield in specific crops, they will overall have more of a variety in food. I believe Agroforesty is the technique that farmers should remain using. Food security and the people having enough varieties of food is more important then meeting the demand of a crop that produces a luxury like chocolate.

pencesam said...

Monoculture is becoming more and more popular, and either being replaced or co used with agrforestry. The biggest difference is that one allows farming of multiple crops, and the other one focuses on one. Agroforestry is much more difficult due to the keep up and wide variation of work due to different crops that need different things. Personally I think agroforestry makes the most sense, because you can have a better crop rotation at the beginning of each new season. Also, monoculture tends to experience increasing signs of yields and issues with the crops themselves.Also, at the beginning of each season, no one reallys knows what the dmand for certain crops will be, therefore if you only grow one type of crop and its in low demand, the farmer will loose alot of money. So, agroforestry sets some kind of backup plan economically speaking. -S.P Somonauk

unknown said...

Agroforestry is a practice that involves growing multiple types of crops at one time so that there is more of a variety harvested at one time. This can be very helpful when it comes to trading and selling crops. Monoculture is like Agroforestry, but it deals with only one crop. This could possibly be less effective, but it is helpful because high-demand crops like cacao can be grown at once in large amounts. It seems like Agroforestry is more like a large garden- our school grows multiple crops throughout two fields, while Monoculture is more like how commercial farming works- farmers grow one crop throughout an entire field. Does Monoculture still grow multiple crops just one at a time or does it just completely focus on one? To reply on S.P. from Somonauk, I would have to agree that growing one crop that is not in high demand is kind of a waste of space and time that could be used for crops that are more needed. I also do not quite understand how organic farming can be working so well with Agroforestry and Monoculture if studies found that cacao yields are actually lower using organic farming. Organic farming was also found to also be quite labor intensive, but not as much as conventional. Other than having lower costs, organic farming is not much different from conventional farming. In my opinion, I think that using Agroforestry with conventional farming is more effective because the crop yields can be increased instead of decreased and more of a variety of crops can be grown, especially with cacao. E.D. Somonauk

Reagan Orzech said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Reagan Orzech said...

As we have discussed in the past blog posts, there is expected to be around 9.7 billion people on this earth in the year 2050. With this additional two billion mouths to feed, it is not surprising that there will be an increase of demand for oil crops, grain, and cacao seeds which produce the beloved cocoa, cocoa butter, and chocolate. With this growing requirement, and the pressure falling on Latin America to produce 60% of the global production (Bolivia earning more than two million for the export of this product), many farmers have focused specifically on only growing this single crop through the use of organic or conventional methods of monoculture as it produces a greater yield. Many industries have begun using new “high yielding” varieties, pesticides, and fertilizers to protect their crop but their remains an inevitable problem of pests, diseases and loss of soil fertility that monoculture causes. Unfortunately, however, due to the environmental and social challenges we discussed during last weeks blog including climate change and reduced amounts of land, there is not many benefits to this practice as it gets rid of biodiversity, destroys the soil, and is less eco friendly. To solve this problem, an improved farming practice called agroforestry has come about and has been studied specifically in Bolivia, a landlocked country, with cacao. This farming method differs greatly from monoculture as agroforestry is the practice of planting trees on and around farms and combining them with other crops or livestock. By integrating these trees or perennials, agroforestry promotes the efficient use of sunlight, moisture, plant nutrients, and increases soil health. It also allows for product diversification, an increased use of renewable resources, and more potential for labor. For the farmers of Bolivia, although this method does not create a higher yield, it allows them to not place their eggs all in one basket and instead sell a variety of items all being grown at the same time like bananas and plantains. This larger variety of products to produce can help them reach a greater audience, have greater food security, and requires more workers which can increase employment and help poorer individuals find work and help feed their families. Personally speaking, I believe if they combined conventional methods with agroforestry the results would be a positive chain reaction as their would be a double amount of protection against the disasters that can destroy yields and leaves families and farmers helpless and back at square one. While I do understand the concern and fear of items like fungicides and pesticides and their potential negative effects when consumed, I believe these areas need to be shown research and educated on the overall benefits of using science on your side. -R.O Somonauk

M.E.T said...


Monoculture is defined as the cultivation of a single crop in a given area, whereas agroforestry incorporates the cultivation and conservation of trees, allowing for more than one crop to grow at the same time. Because cacao production trends have increased substantially since 2004 due to a greater demand of the product, cacao is being grown through the implementation of monoculture, rather than traditional agroforestry practices. The reason this new way of production is being implemented is because it is said to increase the yield by 40%, which is a great amount, no doubt. Although many view monoculture as a better option for production , agroforestry allows for the ability of more crop varieties to be grown at once, rather than focusing primarily on one specific crop. As it’s been stated more than once, by the year 2050 there will be 9.7 billion people, that is 2+ billion more mouths we need to feed. While increasing yield production is mandatory if we plan to feed this many people, we also need to be able to offer a variety of crops, something we cannot do if we choose monoculture over agroforestry. Food security is a major issue around the world, and the use of cocoa will not necessarily benefit those who need food as it is used primarily in sweets, having more options to choose from is more important.

Unknown said...

Ever since 2004 the demand for cacao has been increasing. There are multiple techniques that can be used when growing cacao. One of them is to use agroforestry which means you would grow cacao in the same field as other, complementing plants such as bananas, avocados, and so on. The other method to growing cacao is monoculture. This method is simple: a whole field is dedicated to only growing cacao. Even though the study found that farmers who use monoculture receive a higher yield, the farmers who use agroforestry receive much better benefits. In turn for using this method farmers do not only get a better profit, they also become more food secure because they are growing other crops as well. If developing countries adopt agroforestry as their main farming method, it could be revolutionary for them. Developing countries are still struggling to be fully food secure and using this method would help decrease the amount of people who are. They could grow a plant (like cacao) for profit, as well as growing other crops (like bananas or plantains) for both profit and personal consumption. That way they are making money as well as getting all the right nutrients.

Somonauk J.P.

McKenna said...

This topic was very hard to understand. Recently I read on Facebook that cacao is being used as a party drug in Berlin, taking the place of alcohol and substances like LSD and heroine. The drug has recently moved to London and New York, stocking night clubs with cacao drinks and pills. Cacao is the purest form of chocolate you can consume. It is raw and much less processed than cocoa powder and contains high levels of magnesium and antioxidants. It is also very toxic to the liver and is super addictive which is why it has become such a big trend. It acts as a stimulant and agitates the kidneys and adrenal glands. Caco production trends have increased tremendously due to the high demand for the product. Monoculture, an agricultural practice of producing or growing a single product, has replaced agroforestry, the cultivation and conservation of trees which has led to a loss of biodiversity. Biodiversity boosts ecosystem productivity and ensures natural sustainability. For example, the more species there are the more of a variety the world has. Although we eat it now, cacao plants were never consumed before. Native Americans used them for sacred purposes. -K.P.

R.S. said...

The demand for cacao is on the rise worldwide. Since 2004, the organic cultivated area has been expanded almost six times. As the area grows traditional agroforestry (agriculture that incorporates the cultivation and conservation of trees) systems are being replaced by monocultures (the agricultural practice of producing or growing a single crop). Agroforestry is incorporated with much more labor intensive work than monocultures. Although, requiring more work agroforestry is the greater option of the two. Monocultures although deliver 40% more yields of cacao, they only provide one crop at at a time. Agroforestry however, provides a variety of crops that can be grown at one time. With the expected population growth, in order to successfully feed more people Agroforestry is the better option based on the amount of variety it offers.

Chism said...

Enough though monoculture is becoming more popular i think that agroforestry is more dependable. Agroforestry can be more flexible by where it is used on like a smaller land area or a bigger. Agroforestry has a lot in common with intercropping. You can control the run off and erosion soil with agroforestry, and monoculture is only the cultivation of one crop per area. So in agroforestry you can have more than one crop in a area so I think it is more efficient. And then agroforestry helps the farmers with them saving money because there is always some type of profit being made since there are different types of crops growing there. ec somonauk

M.P. said...

Agroforestry is when agriculture incorporates the cultivation and conservation of trees. While monoculture is the cultivation of a single crop in a given area. Since 2004 the demand for cacao is dramatically increasing. As the demand grows, agroforestry is being replaced by monocultures. Most of the world's cocoa is grown in a narrow belt 10 degrees either side of the Equator because cocoa trees grow well in humid tropical climates. Agroforestry systems have decreased cacao yields compared to monoculture systems because agroforestry requires more labor than monocultures. Although, monocultures may produce more yields of cacao they only focus on one crop at a time. While agroforesty has various crops growing at the same time. Conventional versus organic cacao production is very similar when it comes to the amount of labor put into the crops. But in the monocultures, cacao yields were nearly 50 % lower under organic farming. My biggest takeaway from this article was that although agroforestry is more labor intensive it is worth the time because agroforestry has more of a return, crop and money wise.

katiek said...

Since 2004 the demand tor cacao has had a large increase. Cacao is grown in two ways, agroforestry. Agroforestry is the main way it is grown. In this technique farmers multiple crops are grown together. For example the cacao id grown with bananas. Monoculture is when the plant is simply grown on its own. Monoculture has the ability to increase the yield of the crop by 40%. This is a very large increase that would help deal with the growing demand for cocoa. However, it may not be the best option. Cocoa is mainly used in sweets. Although sweets are yummy they are not necessary in life. Even though monoculture would be allow more cocoa to be produced, agroforestry allows a wider variety of food to be grown. This is more important when we are having to deal with the issue of feeding the growing population. Cocoa is something nice to have and is a luxury item but it is not absolutely necessary. It is more important to meet the worlds demand for food to feed people then it is to meet the worlds demand for a luxury item.
kk-somonauk

unknown said...

Since 2004 the demand for cacao has been rising. There are multiple tways that can be used when producing cacao. One of them is to use agroforestry which means you would grow cacao in the same field as other, complementing plants like bananas. The other method to growing cacao is monoculture. This method is taking a whole field and dedicating it to only growing cacao. A study found that farmers who use monoculture receive a higher yield, the farmers who use agroforestry receive much better benefits. So when using this method they not only get money back, they also are growing a variety more crops and becoming more food secure. In response to JP, I completely agree about the point on how if developing countries adopt this method it can help those who are food insecure. This method has many benefits that can help those that need a change in their life. this farming method can not only allow for the families to make profit but make a living and feed their families. My question to you is "How can we make these families aware of how great these crops are to grow and produce them successfully?" Somonauk ST

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