FCIA Fine Chocolate Glossary


Collective term for land-use systems and technologies where woody perennials and/or animals co-occur in an intentional spatial and temporal arrangement.

Source: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

Expert Perspective

A term coined in the late 1970s by academics, civil society, and policymakers to describe smallholder farmers’ incorporation of trees and woody perennials (for example, shrubs, palms, and bamboo) into their farms in a particular spatial arrangement and/or temporal sequence.

By creating complex, high-density, multi-storeyed, and multi-functional agricultural production systems, agroforestry production of cash crops, such as cocoa, has emerged as an integrated, sustainable land-use strategy.

Agroforestry production has been adopted by farmers to recuperate the fertility of their degraded soils; increase their food and livelihood security; diversify their sources of income; and participate in certification and payment for ecosystem services (PES) schemes.

Cocoa monoculture (left) versus shade-grown (right); photo courtesy of Jerry Toth

Cultivation of cocoa in an agroforestry system is increasingly equated to “climate-smart” cocoa production.

Cocoa is traditionally an under-storey crop and is well-suited to cultivation under shade conditions. It is imperative, however, that farmers select species of trees and woody perennials that do not compete for available soil nutrients and water.

Farmers must also manage the level of shade in their farms through pruning and thinning of the non-cocoa tree canopy.

By improving soil health and fertility, and promoting carbon sequestration in the soil and above- and below-ground biomass, agroforestry production enhances the sustainability of cocoa production against a backdrop of climate change. Moreover, it contributes to reversing land degradation, deforestation and biodiversity loss at a farm and landscape level.

Próximamente versión en español

Learn more from “Agroforestry” author Dr. Lisette Phelan and other experts in this FCIA webinar

Entry added: October 10, 2022
Verified on: September 14, 2023

Authored by

Lisette Phelan, Postdoctoral Researcher at the School of Geography, University of Leeds
Academic/university faculty


Agroforestry transitions: The good, the bad and the ugly,” Ollinaho, Ossi I. and Markus Kröger, Journal of Rural Studies 82: 210-221, January 4, 2021.

Agroforestry for soil health,” Dollinger, Jeanne and Shibu Jose, Agroforestry systems 92, no. 2: 213-219, March 23, 2018

Agroforestry as a strategy for carbon sequestration,”Ramachandran Nair, P.K, B. Mohan Kumar and Vimala D. Nair, Journal of plant nutrition and soil science 172, no. 1: 10-23, February 11, 2009

Cocoa agroforestry systems versus monocultures: a multi-dimensional meta-analysis,” Niether, Wiebke, Johanna Jacobi, Wilma J. Blaser, Christian Andres and Laura Armengot, Environmental Research Letters 15, no. 10: 104085, October 7, 2020.

Impacts of shaded agroforestry management on carbon sequestration, biodiversity and farmers income in cocoa production landscapes,” Middendorp, Romaike S., Veerle Vanacker and Eric F. Lambin, Landscape Ecology 33, no. 11: 1953-1974, October 28, 2018.

Contribution of cocoa agroforestry systems to family income and domestic consumption: looking toward intensification,” Cerda, Rolanda, Olivier Deheveuls, David Calvache, Lourdes Niehaus, Yara Saenz, Justine Kent, Sergio Vilchez, Alejandra Villota, Carlos Martinez and Eduardo Somarriba, Agroforestry systems 88, no. 6: 957-981, March 30, 2014.

Forest-and Climate-Smart Cocoa in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana,” Kroeger, Alan, Simon Koenig, Ashley Thomson and Charlotte Streck, Commodity Study, World Bank, December 15, 2017.

Ecophysiology of the cacao tree,” de Almeida, Alex-Alan F. and Raúl R. Valle, Brazilian Journal of Plant Physiology 19: 425-448, December 2007.

Rehabilitation and renovation of cocoa (Theobroma cacao L.) agroforestry systems: a review,” Somarriba, Eduardo, Felipe Peguero, Rolando Cerda, Luis Orozco-Aguilar, Arlene López-Sampson, Mariela E. Leandro-Muñoz, Patrick Jagoret and Fergus L. Sinclair, Agronomy for Sustainable Development 41, no. 5: 1-19, September 16, 2021.

Below-and aboveground production in cocoa monocultures and agroforestry systems,” Niether Wiebke, Ulf Schneidewind, Michael Fuchs, Monika Schneider and Laura Armengot, Science of the Total Environment 657: 558-567, March 20, 2019.

Carbon stocks and cocoa yields in agroforestry systems of Central America,” Somarriba, Eduardo, Rolando Cerda, Luis Orozco-Aguilar, Miguel Cifuentes, Héctor Dávila, Tania Espin, Henry Mavisoy, Guadelupe Ávila, Estefany Alvarado, Verónica Poveda and Carlos Astorga, Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 173: 46-57, July 1, 2013.

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