Under what conditions can we continue to produce cocoa, and therefore consume chocolate, without adding to the deforestation processes at work in tropical forests? Can production in forests be expanded while preserving biodiversity? In response to these issues, many see "agroforestry", i.e. the cultivation of cocoa trees in association with other trees, as the main solution. However, the notion of agroforestry covers many realities on the ground, not all of which are compatible with biodiversity conservation. To what extent, under what conditions and in what contexts can agroforestry answer the above questions? This Issue Brief proposes an inventory of knowledge and approaches for sustainable cocoa cultivation, taking into account the different regional contexts.

Key Messages

  • Planting shade trees in cocoa plantations, within the framework of an "agroforestry" approach, is generally not enough to compensate for deforestation, either in terms of stored carbon or in terms of tree diversity and abundance.
  • To stop imported deforestation due to chocolate, importers will therefore have to adopt a strict zero deforestation policy that excludes any cocoa from a classified forest area, and any cocoa from a deforested area, even legally, after 2016.
  • The sector's development aid policies will have to be adapted depending on the production areas: in West Africa, support for the restoration of biodiversity in cocoa plantations, rather than the use of a simple or minimal agroforestry as today, which does not compensate for deforestation; in Latin America, strengthening "virtuous" sectors, and in particular complex forms of agroforestry associated with a good level of biodiversity; in Central Africa, support for the delimitation between forest areas, to be placed outside production, and agricultural areas where production can develop.
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