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Multistrata Systems: Potentials and Challenges of Cocoa-based Agroforests in the Humid Tropics
Multistrata agroforests comprise a wide range of agroforestry practices that includes assemblage of woody and nonwoody plant components, with the wide range of practices on the continuum from using shade trees in perennial plantation to very diversified agroforests that mimic the original forest-like structure. In the humid tropical lowlands, such systems often consist of cocoa (Theobroma cacao) grown under the shade of trees. In this review, we explore the reliability of research on and the feasibility of achieving the environmental and economic benefits of cocoa agroforests, highlighting future opportunities and challenges of cocoa growing. Unsustainable intensification in a form of monocultures with high agricultural inputs reduces ecological resilience of a land-use system, whereas paradoxically, environmental and climate changes require more than ever a higher capacity of land-use systems to cope with increasing global environmental pressure. Over the past decade, a number of new studies focusing on cocoa agroforests have been published. We review current cultivation of cocoa in the world and outline the establishment and management of cocoa agroforests. Further on, we explored the idea that cocoa agroforests could be a solution to prevent phenomenon of boom-and-bust cycle of cocoa cultivation and highlighted the possibilities for improvement of cocoa cultivation using its vast genetic base. Then the benefits of cocoa agroforests for (agro)biodiversity and soil conservation are summarized and economic perspectives of multistrata systems assessed. In final discussion, we performed a SWOT analysis, highlighting future opportunities and challenges and proposing recommendation to improve the extension, adoption and sustainability of cocoa agroforests.