Cacao agroforestry systems have higher return on labor compared to full-sun monocultures

  • Laura Armengot
  • Pietro Barbieri
  • Christian Andres
  • Joachim Milz
  • Monika Schneider
Research Article

DOI: 10.1007/s13593-016-0406-6

Cite this article as:
Armengot, L., Barbieri, P., Andres, C. et al. Agron. Sustain. Dev. (2016) 36: 70. doi:10.1007/s13593-016-0406-6


The global demand for cacao has recently increased. To meet this demand, the cultivated area has been expanded in tropical forest areas and production has intensified by replacing traditional agroforestry systems with monocultures. This has led to a loss of biodiversity in cacao-growing areas. More sustainable production systems such as agroforestry and organic managed systems are expected to yield less cacao, but by-crops and premium prices, respectively, might economically compensate for the lower yields. Here, we compared the productivity and the return on labor, that is the return per working day, of four different cacao production systems: agroforestry and monocultures under organic and conventional management. Cacao and by-crop yields, costs, revenues, and labor were registered during the first 5 years after establishment. Results show that cacao yields were, on average, 41% higher in monocultures, but the revenues derived from agroforestry by-crops economically overcompensated for this difference. Indeed, the return on labor across the years was roughly twice as high in the agroforestry systems compared to the monocultures. We found similar cacao yields and return on labor in conventional and organically managed agroforestry systems. However, in the monocultures, cacao yields were 48% lower under organic compared with conventional farming, but the return on labor was similar, mainly due to the higher costs associated to the conventional management. Overall, our findings show that cacao agroforestry systems have higher return on labor.


Bolivia Economic analysis Labor demand Long-term experiment Organic farming Theobroma cacao L. 

Funding information

Funder NameGrant NumberFunding Note
Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development
    Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)
      Liechtenstein Development Service (LED)
        Coop Sustainability Fund

          Copyright information

          © INRA and Springer-Verlag France 2016

          Authors and Affiliations

          1. 1.Research Institute of Organic AgricultureFrickSwitzerland
          2. 2.INRA, UMR 1391 ISPAVillenave d’OrnonFrance
          3. 3.Sustainable Agroecosystems Group, Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Environmental Systems ScienceSwiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH)ZurichSwitzerland
          4. 4.Ecotop ConsultLa PazBolivia

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