Cacao farmers are on the front lines of climate change. They are seeing first-hand how extreme weather patterns are affecting their crops and their livelihoods. In response, they are adopting new practices that not only help them adapt to a changing climate but also fight back against it. Here's how they're doing it.
1. Perennial Crops
Traditionally, cacao farmers have grown annual crops like maize, rice, and beans alongside their cacao trees. However, these annual crops require more water and maintenance than perennial crops do, making them more vulnerable to drought. Perennial crops, on the other hand, are much more resilient to drought conditions.
2. Mixed cropping
Mixed cropping is a practice that involves planting multiple species of plants together in the same area. This method has a number of benefits for cacao farmers. First, it helps to improve the soil quality by adding organic matter and nutrients. Second, it increases water retention and reduces erosion. Third, it provides a microclimate for the cacao trees that helps to protect them from extreme weather conditions. And fourth, it attracts natural predators of pests, which can help to reduce the need for chemical pesticides.
3. Shade-grown cacao
Cacao trees naturally grow under the canopy of other taller trees in the forest. However, many farmers have switched to sun-grown cacao in order to increase production. While this may yield more cacao beans in the short-term, it is not a sustainable practice because it leads to deforestation and soil erosion. Shade-grown cacao, on the other hand, is much more environmentally friendly and actually requires less water than sun-grown cacao does. Additionally, shade-grown cacao has been shown to produce higher-quality beans.
Shade-grown cacao farming is a form of Agro forestry. This practice can have many benefits, including improved soil health, increased crop yields, and enhanced carbon sequestration. In the Philippines, farmers are using agro forestry to propagate cacao farming and help fight climate change. Cacao trees are intercropped with existing coconut farms, providing shade and protecting the cacao plants from harsh weather conditions. In this way, agro forestry is an effective tool for combating climate change while also providing a valuable source of income for farmers.
As the effects of climate change become more and more pronounced, it is important that we support the farmers who are on the front lines of this battle. By helping these farmers adopt sustainable practices, we can ensure that they will be able to continue producing high-quality cacao beans well into the future. Let’s work together to make sure that these farmers are able to thrive in the face of climate change.