Replacing coffee with cocoa to overcome effects of climate change

Study assesses feasibility of growing cocoa instead of coffee in a warming Mesoamerica

Coffea arabica
Longterm coffee (Coffea arabica) agroforestry experiment by Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza in Turrialba, Costa Rica. Photo by Kauê de Sousa (CC BY 4.0)

With productivity of Arabica coffee projected to drastically decline, replacing coffee with cocoa (Theobroma cacao) and integrating trees in combined agroforestry systems may become an important strategy for climate change adaptation in Mesoamerica.

This study investigated the feasibility of this strategy by assessing current and future climatic suitability of coffee, cocoa and 100 common agroforestry trees using primarily GBIF-mediated occurrences.

By modelling distributions of all species and projecting these into 2050 climate scenarios, the authors showed that coffee is indeed more vulnerable to climate change than cocoa, as up to 62 per cent of current areas for production may become unsuitable by 2050. Eighty-five per cent of these vulnerable areas may, however, remain suitable for cocoa.

The results also showed that despite overall losses in suitability for the most popular tree species, agroforesty may remain a viable alternative, as 72 per cent of future coffee areas will be able to support more than 30 tree species. For cocoa, the agroforestry potential is even higher—with 95 per cent of areas suitable for more than 30 species.

Original article

De Sousa K, van Zonneveld M, Holmgren M, Kindt R and Ordoñez JC (2019) The future of coffee and cocoa agroforestry in a warmer Mesoamerica. Scientific Reports. Springer Science and Business Media LLC 9(1). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-45491-7