FiBL trial in Bolivia: comparing cacao in agroforestry and monoculture
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Because of the growing demand for cacao the land under cultivation has expanded in tropical forest areas and monoculture has replaced agroforestry systems. This shift has led to a loss of biodiversity. More sustainable production systems such as agroforestry and organically managed systems are expected to yield less cacao, but by-crops and premium prices might compensate for the lower yields.
In their report on the trial FiBL explains how they compared productivity and the return on labor in agroforestry and monoculture under conventional and organic management. Monitoring the results over 5 years, they discovered that cacao yields were on average 41% higher in monoculture, but the revenues derived from agroforestry by-crops overcompensated for this difference.
Thus cacao in conventional monoculture produces higher yields but has a negative environmental impact, and in the case of agroforesty systems by-crops more than made up for the lower yields of cacao. In fact, the return on labour over the years was roughly twice as high in the agroforestry systems compared with monoculture. They found similar cacao yields and return on labour in conventional and organically managed agroforestry systems.
However, in monoculture, cacao yields were 48% lower under organic management compared with conventional farming, although the return on labor was similar, mainly due to the higher costs associated with conventional management. Overall, FiBL's findings show that cacao agroforestry systems have a higher return on labor.