As many of us know, millions of small scale farmers in West Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia depend on cocoa for their household incomes and livelihoods. But is there a link between cocoa farming and food security? In our opinion, the answer is “yes” for several reasons.
First, as a perennial tree crop, good cocoa cultivation fosters crop diversity and the integration of other food crops, especially plantain, oil palm, cassava, fruit trees, and coconuts in permanent association. Managing these associations is far more profitable on a per hectare basis, greatly aids family food availability and contributes to better environmental stewardship.
Second, cocoa-focused training and capacity development activities produce transferable skills and benefits; a good cocoa farmer is a good farmer. For example, a farmer who applies fertilizer to cocoa will also be applying fertilizer to the plantain growing alongside it. Likewise, an extension staff person who develops skills on designing a cocoa farmer training program can apply those skills to develop a training program for another crop. Both of these outcomes directly attend to the element of food availability.
Third, as a cash crop it can significantly improve household incomes and enhance food security by affording greater access (purchasing power) to the market for foodstuffs. Finally, cocoa as a national export is a substantial counterbalance to the cost of other food imports (especially wheat and rice for urban populations), offsetting by more than 3:1 the value of those commodities for the entire region. Overall, cocoa farming is an integral part of a food security calculation and is reflected in the national agriculture priorities.