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Long-term dynamics of cocoa agroforests: A case study in central Cameroon

Jagoret P., Michel-Dounias I., Malézieux E.. 2011. AgroForestry Systems, 81 (3) : p. 267-278.

DOI: 10.1007/s10457-010-9368-x

The sustainability of cocoa growing systems in the humid tropics is debatable. Socioeconomic and technical data were obtained from 1,171 cocoa farmers and 1,638 cocoa plantations to assess the long-term dynamics of cocoa agroforests in central Cameroon since the beginning of the twentieth century. On-site, we estimated the age of the cocoa trees and measured their density in a subsample of 402 cocoa plantations. We inventoried associated woody species in 45 cocoa plantations from this sub-sample. Our results revealed a high Shannon index for the cocoa plantations (2.6) and showed that an average of 25 tree species per cocoa plantation had been planted with the cocoa trees at a density of 120 trees ha-1. Surveys indicated that there had been no mineral fertilization. Nearly 70% of the cocoa agroforests were over 40 years old, and all farmers continuously regenerated their cocoa tree stands. Irrespective of the cocoa plantation age, the cocoa tree density remained over 1,000 plants ha-1, and fermented dried cocoa yields were 255 kg ha-1 on average. Cocoa agroforests occupied 60% of the cultivated area on farms and cocoa sales accounted for 75% of total farm income. Almost a third of the farmers were from the area and under 40 years old. In conclusion, our results show that the farmers' agroforestry practices, in addition to the fact that the cocoa tree stands were continuously regenerated and passed down between generations of farmers, could explain the long-term dynamics of cocoa agroforests in central Cameroon.

Mots-clés : theobroma cacao; agroforesterie; durabilité; régénération; biodiversité; rendement des cultures; cameroun; cameroun centre

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