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Impact of Deforestation on Cocoa Yield in Ivory Coast

Impact of Deforestation on Cocoa Yield in Ivory CoastPhoto from Unsplash

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Ivory Coast, the world largest producer of cocoa, faces significant environmental challenges due to deforestation linked to cocoa farming. This deforestation has both immediate and long-term impacts on cocoa yields and sustainability.

Benefits of Deforestation on Cocoa Yields in Ivory Coast?

Deforestation initially boosts cocoa yields by providing farmers with access to fertile, virgin soil. However, this advantage is short-lived as soil fertility rapidly diminishes after a few years of intensive cultivation, compelling farmers to clear more forests in pursuit of productive land​

Soil Degradation Due to Deforestation

Soil degradation in deforested areas is a significant ecological issue that occurs through several interconnected processes. When forests are cleared for agricultural purposes such as cocoa farming, the soil is left vulnerable to several degradative forces which diminish its quality and fertility over time.

Loss of Nutrient Cycling Forests play a critical role in maintaining soil fertility through nutrient cycling. Trees draw nutrients from deep within the soil and return them to the surface via leaf litter and other organic matter, which decomposes and enriches the topsoil. The removal of trees during deforestation halts this cycle, leading to rapid nutrient depletion as the crops planted in place of the trees continue to absorb these nutrients without sufficient replenishment​

Increased Soil Erosion The tree canopy in forests protects the soil from direct exposure to rain and wind. When trees are removed, the land becomes highly susceptible to erosion. Rainfall directly hits the soil, washing away the top nutrient-rich layer. Additionally, the lack of roots, which help hold the soil together, means that soil is more likely to be carried away by wind or water runoff, further reducing its fertility and structure​

Compaction and Reduced Water Infiltration Heavy machinery used in deforestation and subsequent agricultural operations can lead to soil compaction. Compacted soil has reduced pore space, making it harder for air, water, and roots to penetrate. This results in poorer water infiltration and drainage, which can impede plant growth and lead to increased surface runoff and further erosion. Reduced pore space also negatively impacts the soil microbiome, which is essential for organic matter decomposition and nutrient cycling​ (

Chemical Degradation In many cases, the transition from forest to agricultural land involves significant use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides to maintain crop yields on increasingly infertile soils. These chemicals can lead to soil acidification, disrupt microbial activity, and degrade the overall soil health, further diminishing its fertility and productivity over time​


The prevalence of monoculture in these areas leads to further soil degradation and a loss of biodiversity, which negatively impacts essential ecological functions such as pollination and pest control.

Impact of Soil Degradation on Cocoa Yields

Soil degradation directly impacts the yields of cocoa crops in deforested areas due to the soil’s inability to support healthy plant

Nutrient Deficiency

Healthy soil contains a balance of essential nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which are critical for plant growth. Soil degradation often results in the depletion of these nutrients, making them unavailable to plants. Without adequate nutrition, plants cannot develop fully or produce at their potential, leading to stunted growth and reduced yields. This is particularly detrimental in cocoa farming, where the quality and quantity of cocoa beans are heavily dependent on the nutrient content of the soil​

Poor Water Retention

Degraded soils often lose their structure and porosity, which impairs their ability to retain water. This leads to a condition known as hydrophobicity, where water does not infiltrate the soil but instead runs off the surface. Inadequate water availability can stress plants, particularly during critical growth periods, reducing their growth rate and the eventual yield. For crops like cocoa, which require consistent moisture for optimum growth, this can significantly impact productivity​

Increased Vulnerability to Pests and Diseases

Soil degradation also affects the biological balance within the soil. Healthy soils are home to beneficial microbes that help suppress pathogens and pests. Degraded soils, however, often have reduced microbial activity, making crops more susceptible to diseases and pest infestations. Cocoa plants, in particular, are vulnerable to several pests and diseases that can thrive in poor soil conditions, further reducing yield

Ivory Coast, which has seen significant deforestation, has also seen 20 years of reduced crop yield. EU regulations, EUDR,  will impact this process over the coming years.

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