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Agroecosystem resilience and farmers’ perceptions of climate change impacts on cocoa farms in Alto Beni, Bolivia

  • Johanna Jacobi (a1), Monika Schneider (a2), Patrick Bottazzi (a1), Maria Pillco (a3), Patricia Calizaya (a4) and Stephan Rist (a1)...
Abstract

Cocoa-based small-scale agriculture is the most important source of income for most farming families in the region of Alto Beni in the sub-humid foothills of the Andes. Cocoa is grown in cultivation systems of varying ecological complexity. The plantations are highly susceptible to climate change impacts. Local cocoa producers mention heat waves, droughts, floods and plant diseases as the main impacts affecting plants and working conditions, and they associate these impacts with global climate change. From a sustainable regional development point of view, cocoa farms need to become more resilient in order to cope with the climate change related effects that are putting cocoa-based livelihoods at risk. This study assesses agroecosystem resilience under three different cocoa cultivation systems (successional agroforestry, simple agroforestry and common practice monocultures). In a first step, farmers’ perceptions of climate change impacts were assessed and eight indicators of agroecological resilience were derived in a transdisciplinary process (focus groups and workshop) based on farmers’ and scientists’ knowledge. These indicators (soil organic matter, depth of Ah horizon, soil bulk density, tree species diversity, crop varieties diversity, ant species diversity, cocoa yields and infestation of cocoa trees with Moniliophthora perniciosa) were then surveyed on 15 cocoa farms and compared for the three different cultivation systems. Parts of the socio-economic aspects of resilience were covered by evaluating the role of cocoa cooperatives and organic certification in transitioning to more resilient cocoa farms (interviews with 15 cocoa farmers combined with five expert interviews). Agroecosystem resilience was higher under the two agroforestry systems than under common practice monoculture, especially under successional agroforestry. Both agroforestry systems achieved higher cocoa yields than common practice monoculture due to agroforestry farmers’ enhanced knowledge regarding cocoa cultivation. Knowledge sharing was promoted by local organizations facilitating organic certification. These organizations were thus found to enhance the social process of farmers’ integration into cooperatives and their reorientation toward organic principles and diversified agroforestry.

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Corresponding author
* Corresponding author: johanna.jacobi@cde.unibe.ch
References
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