Everybody knows about the disappearing Amazon forests and the vanishing jungles of Sumatra. However, hardly anyone outside the kingdom of Wonder is aware of the dramatic deforestation in Cambodia. Who cares anyway? Cambodia is already a pariah state in the eyes of almost all developed nations. Only China is hugely interested in Cambodia, and mostly for her natural resources. However, does China care about the deforestation? No, on the contrary, China is the driving force behind one of the biggest timber smuggling scandals in the world. If nothing will happen there will be no primeval forests left in Cambodia ten years from now. And nothing is happening because NGO’s like the WWF are engaging more and more opposition.
Farming Against Deforestation?
As strange as it sounds, farming can be an antidote against deforestation. And cocoa farming is the king in this movement. More than any other crop, cocoa is very suitable for intercropping. Cocoa is of origin a jungle tree, growing in the shade of far bigger trees. For a long time, farmers ignored this natural behavior. They planted cocoa as a mono-crop with many devastating diseases as a result. Slowly but surely the conviction is growing that cocoa is much better off when it is intercropped with many other trees. When we with our company Kamkav Farm learned about the possibilities of intercropping, we immediately developed this practice. We now first plant banana trees and Tatoemthet, a shadow tree. Both trees are growing very fast and can give the cocoa a considerable shade. This shade is necessary for the seedlings when they are still young and vulnerable.
Cutting And Replanting
After one year we start cutting half of the banana and Tatoemthet trees. We replace some of these by fruit trees like mango, cashew nut, avocado, durian, jackfruit, and soursop. Also, we need to give more space to the cocoa trees themselves.
From our first experiences, we can conclude that this intercropping is working. We hardly have trouble with insects attacking our cocoa, and also fungi is a minor issue, as long as we prune all the trees well.
All the dead leaves of all the different trees are functioning as free fertilizer and prevent erosion as well. This created biodiversity seems also more ideal for pollinators.
Until half a century ago, huge forests covered almost the entire Cambodian province of Mondulkiri. Now you can see the results of deforestation everywhere, as a result of timber smuggling, and of mono-cropping like rubber and pepper. When I drive through one of the vast rubber plantations, which generally stretch out across more than 1,000 hectares, I always get overwhelmed by a depressive feeling, looking at the countless rows of rubber trees. The soil still looks dull and dark, due to the contamination by herbicides. You hear no birds singing because rubber plantations are not attractive for any bird to nest. Despite the green leaves in the tops of the trees, these plantations come across as dead forests.
Human-Made Cocoa Forests
However, when I arrive at our coco0a farm in Bu Sra, and have to work my way through the first planted hectares, my depressed feelings caused by the nearby rubber plantations, immediately make way for emotions of joy. I hear birds singing; bees and ants are continually creating their small kingdoms; avocado trees, banana trees, and mango trees are sometimes bearing fruit, but the cocoa trees are always beating any other fruit tree: cocoa trees are developing cocoa pods, the whole year through. I have more the feeling of walking through a jungle than being on a plantation. It gives me an excellent impression of how our province Mondulkiri can look like when we succeed in attracting more farmers to start with cocoa: Mondulkiri will then again be covered with rich forests; cocoa forests.
If you are interested in learning more about the first Cambodian cocoa in history, feel free to message our company at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at https://kamkavfarm.com.
cocoa-based agroforestry: https://nationalzoo.si.edu/scbi/migratorybirds/research/cacao/somarriba.cfm
Agroforestry in the jungle: https://globalforestatlas.yale.edu/amazon/conservation-initiatives/agroforestry
Agroforestry around the world: http://www.cacaoforest.org/news/cocoaagroforestry
Trees among the trees: http://www.worldagroforestry.org/news/trees-among-trees-cocoa-farmers%E2%80%99-views-agroforestry