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Rehabilitation practices that shape cocoa agroforestry systems in Central Cameroon: key management strategies for long-term exploitation

Jagoret P., Snoeck D., Bouambi E., Ngnogue H.T., Nyassé S., Saj S.. 2018. AgroForestry Systems, 92 (5) : p. 1185-1199.

DOI: 10.1007/s10457-016-0055-4

In Africa's main cocoa producing countries, rehabilitation of old cocoa orchards is increasingly debated but rarely adopted. In Central Cameroon, rehabilitation practices are regularly set up in old cocoa-based agroforestry systems (cAFS). To better understand the impact of such practices we built a chronosequence of 40 cAFS. We carried out specific surveys with farmers on each plot in order to check for rehabilitation effects on cocoa stands and associated woody species (AWS). We found that cocoa trees represented on average 88.2% of woody individuals and increased with age (from 84.7 to 91.5%). The cocoa stand basal area (BA) share significantly increased with age and reached up to 40.2% in the oldest systems. Cocoa, fruit and forest trees mean BA increased with aging. They were on average of 6.5, 5.7 and 10.7 m2 ha-1 respectively. Six different architectural types, different from the theoretical architectural evolution of cocoa trees over time, were identified. Among them, type 4 characterized by several orthotropic suckers of differing ages, was found typical of farmers' cutting back practices. Type 4 cocoa trees density increased over time and its BA represented on average 60% of cocoa stand BA in the oldest systems. Concomitantly, farmer's management of AWS led to continuous evolution of the systems both in terms of density and species composition. Our results show that (i) permanent densification and cutting back practices (type 4) allow the rejuvenation of cocoa stands while increasing cocoa stands BA share; (ii) the continuous management of AWS by farmers is undertaken to favour cocoa trees share over time by limiting inter-specific competition and promoting complementarity between cocoa trees and AWS. We argue that such practices explain a fair part of the long-term sustainability observed in cAFS from Central Cameroon and represent a model from which new rehabilitation schemes could be inspired.

Mots-clés : theobroma cacao; agroforesterie; culture associée; espacement; compétition végétale; drageon; drageonnage; régénération naturelle; pratique culturale; cameroun; architecture des arbres; architecture végétale

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