Organic cacao farming systems outperform conventional counterparts for several terms of economic and environmental sustainability
Successful rural development hinges on both the profitability and the environmental sustainability of cropping systems. This is especially true in regions like the tropics where the success of crop production is tightly linked to the livelihoods of small-holder farmers. A recent study published in the journal Environmental and Sustainability Indicators found that organic cacao production offered more economic and environmental sustainability than conventional cacao production. Using the SMART-Farm tool to measure roughly 300 variables of sustainability across nearly 400 organic and conventional cacao farms, the study found that organic farms had higher profitability (20%), more gender equity (27%), less land degradation (24%) and water use (29%), fewer greenhouse gases (22%), and more biodiversity (26%). Farmers who practiced organic production were also more verbally committed to overall sustainability in the tropics. Because profitability margins are so tight in cacao, there is significant concern about potential yield reductions in organic production, however, higher price premiums offset any yield reductions, resulting in higher profitability. This helps make organic a more viable option for farmers who also have goals to increase environmental sustainability of their farming operations.