A group of researchers from the Netherlands have conducted a study comparing the outcomes of coffee and cocoa farming in a shaded agroforestry setting versus a conventional full sun plantation setting. Agroforestry is the practice of integrating trees and shrubs with crops to create environmental and economic benefits, without the use of agrochemicals and high densities of monocultures. The 2017 study attempted to compare the two methods of farming by calculating price per kilogram, yield, net return and revenue, and biodiversity performance.
After analyzing 23 studies, the researchers found some promising information. Profit and cost efficiency was greater for small, shaded farms. The average net return for shaded systems was 23% higher than conventional systems, resulting in a higher profit per hectare. In addition, the price per kilogram was 18% higher from shaded farms- potentially due to higher quality and environmental certifications. However, the conventional non-shaded farms had a greater yield. The lower yield produced by shaded farms, however, is said to be compensated for by the increased biodiversity and protection provided by the trees. The addition of trees in the growing of coffee and cocoa can prevent crop disease and enhance the soil fertility, acting as a natural fertilizer and soil stabilizer.
The study concluded that more research would need to be conducted to further demonstrate the relationship between biodiversity and shaded systems, as well as the financial relationship with shaded systems. Information from this study may serve to induce similar studies so we can fully understand how agroforestry may benefit an agricultural system, the environment, biodiversity, and income of the 30 million coffee and cocoa smallholders predominantly from developing countries.
Source: Rosalien E. J., Pita A. V., Maria J. S., René G.A. B. 2017. Shaded Coffee and Cocoa – Double Dividend for Biodiversity and Small-scale Farmers. Ecological Economics 140: 136-145
Photo Source: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade