Agroecology as a means to improve energy metabolism and economic management in smallholder cocoa farmers in the Ecuadorian Amazon
Área de conocimiento
Título de la revista
Sustainable Production and Consumption
Datos de la obra
Caicedo-Vargas, C., Pérez-Neira, D., Abad-González, J., & Gallar, D. (2023). Agroecology as a means to improve energy metabolism and economic management in smallholder cocoa farmers in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Sustainable Production and Consumption, 41, 201–212. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.spc.2023.08.005
[EN] Cocoa is one of the most important crops in Ecuador, especially in the Ecuadorian Amazon, where >60,000 ha are dedicated to cocoa; 48,600 ha in production in 2021. Most of the cocoa area (82 %) is managed by smallholders with <10 ha under cultivation. Despite the socioeconomic and environmental importance of these systems, there are no previous studies that provide an integrated view of the energy metabolism and economic viability of different smallholder management styles. Consequently, the objective of this work is twofold: a) to estimate the aggregate energy and economic metabolism of small cocoa producers (< 10 ha) in the Ecuadorian Amazon and b) to investigate the existing differences in the technical-economic management styles of the crop. To this end, primary data were collected from a statistically representative sample of cocoa-growing areas distributed among 279 producers in 86 communities in the region, using the life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology and a cost-benefit analysis associated with management. Our data show that most smallholder farmers produce cocoa in low-input diversified agroforest system with a high share of unpaid family labor. At the Amazon level, smallholder farmers (< 10 ha) produced 16.9 million tons of food for the market with a nonrenewable cumulative energy demand (NR CED) of 53.8 TJ (1343 MJ/ha), a carbon footprint (CF) of 8.16 Mt. CO2-eq. (203.9 kg CO2-eq/ha), and a net margin of 19.07 million $ (476.8 $/ha). On average, cocoa yields were estimated at 288 kg/ha, resulting in a NR CED and carbon footprint (CF) per kg of cocoa of 4.18 MJ and 0.98 kg CO2-eq. Despite its apparent homogeneity, three distinct styles of crop management were identified by a cluster analysis. The results suggest that farms with good organic/agroecological management can have a similar income generating capacity to the more intensive conventional farms evaluated, but with better environmental outcomes. Consequently, the paper finally discusses the need to promote public actions and policies that allow for the scaling up and improvement of successful agroecological management in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
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