Pruning And Sustainable Cocoa Production

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Pruning: a key driver of sustainable cocoa production

Good agricultural practices in the Income Accelerator Program

As an innovative family-centered approach, the income accelerator program is aiming to close the living income gap and reduce child labor risks by encouraging changes in behavior and rewarding positive practices – both within the home and on the farm.

The income accelerator program aims to improve the livelihoods of cocoa-farming families. The program rewards cocoa-farming families not just for the quantity and quality of their cocoa beans, but also for practices that benefit the environment and local community. The program incentivizes and enables cocoa-farming families to engage in practices in four areas: school enrollment, good agricultural practices, agroforestry activities, and diversified incomes.

For the first two years, families in the program can receive up to €500 annually (€100 per areas with an additional €100 if families meet the required conditions and actions for all four areas) with the incentives distributed equally between the two household heads (i.e., man and woman) to encourage gender equality, share financial responsibilities, and build more resilient household.

Cocoa-farming families can receive up to €100 from incentives by engaging in quality pruning or architectural pruning – one of the four pillars of the income accelerator program. The first 50% of the incentive is delivered when families ‘promise to engage in pruning’. This is done so that families have adequate funds and cash flow to invest in pruning their farms.

To help all families access quality pruning, we train and equip members of the local community in how to carry out a new structured and graded approach called ‘architectural pruning’ based on a defined grading to perform a selective removal of diseased, dead, or unproductive branches, leading to increased allocation of resources to the remaining branches and fruits. Promoted as ‘pruning groups’, these teams are encouraged to offer their services to cocoa-farming families so that all farms can benefit from architectural pruning. This benefits the community by raising the overall level of pruning, providing pruning group members a way to diversify their incomes and also limits crop disease and loss, facilitates farm maintenance and increases the size of cocoa pods.

What has been the impact of pruning for families in the income accelerator program?

Published in summer 2023, the KIT Royal Tropical Institute Midline report of the pilot phase examined the 1000 cocoa-farming families of the income accelerator program pilot, revealing the following impacts:

  • Increase of almost 20% compared to average cocoa yields from non-pruned cocoa fields with 22% of households reaching one metric ton per one hectare of land
  • 43% of households exceeded the program target of pruning one hectare annually – with 50% of these households pruning up to two hectares
  • Pruning services were provided to all households in the program and 55 pruning groups created

As we expand the income accelerator program further into Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, the pilot has helped identify several areas of improvement. In good agricultural practices, one future action is to highlight why the activities will benefit farmers and their farms in the medium to long term. This is needed because some farmers were skeptical of architectural pruning (mainly due to the invasive nature of the pruning and the large numbers of branches cut and removed from cocoa trees ) which meant teams on the ground had to closely monitor the activity to guarantee the implementation of the practice.

Following the launch of the pilot in 2020, we moved to a test at scale phase in Côte d’Ivoire reaching 10 000 cocoa-farming families, with the aim to reach an estimated 160 000 cocoa-farming families in our supply chain by 2030.

Good agricultural practices will continue to play a key role in the program as we work toward our 2030 goal.

For more information on the income accelerator program and its impact on cocoa-farming families, click to read and discover How the program worksthe Income Accelerator Program Progress Report (July 2023);  and the KIT Royal Tropical Institute reports Baseline on test at scale and Midline report of the pilot phase.