DDD Conference

Dr. Ellen Graber

Cocoa Farming at a Strategic Inflection Point

Volcani Institute, Agricultural Research Organization, Israel

One of the world’s most important tree commodity crops, cacao, is grown across the tropics belt in many nations of the Global South. More than 80% of the 5 million tons of cocoa produced annually is grown by small-holder farmers, and 70% of cocoa globally is grown in West Africa. The economies of the top two producing countries in the world, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, are dependent on cacao for a large part of their foreign currency. A typical family-run cacao farm encompasses 1 hectare with up to 1000 trees. Problems such as low fertility soils, destructive pathogens and pests, and a disappearance of natural pollinators have been plaguing the world’s cocoa growing regions for many decades. A warming and drying climate is adding additional pressures, resulting in a perfect storm of simultaneous and manifold biotic and abiotic stresses that threaten the future of cacao production. Millions of small-scale farmers growing cacao using old-fashioned methods are incapable of meeting these challenges. This presentation will focus on how intensive agriculture practices once unique to food production in semi-arid and arid areas can be adopted in cacao to increase production and reduce deforestation and poverty.

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