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close this bookBetter Farming Series 22 - Cocoa (FAO - INADES, 1977, 32 p.)
close this folderChoosing and preparing the plantation site
View the documentChoosing the site
View the documentClearing the site
View the documentPreparing to plant cocoa trees
View the documentPlanting cocoa trees in a plantation

Choosing the site

15. If a cocoa tree is to grow well, it needs more than anything else a soil

· of good structure,

· permeable and deep.

The cocoa tree has tap- roots. The tap- root descends straight into the soil. The branch roots go down very deep. But many small branch roots also grow near the surface.

If the soil is of good structure and contains much humus, the roots penetrate well. You can improve the soil structure by spreading manure and working it into the soil. If the soil is deep, the roots can go down to a good depth.

Never plant cocoa trees in soil with a lot of stones, or in soil where there is some hard layer.

Small surface roots

Clearing the site

16. In Africa, cocoa is grown in forest regions.
To make a plantation, you must clear the site.

But the cocoa tree needs shade, especially when it Is young.

17. The traditional method is to cut down all the trees and to burn everything.

But this is a bad method because:

· You destroy all the organic matter in the weeds, the leaves and the branches.

· You leave the soil bare to the sun or rain.

· The soil becomes less fertile.

· The cocoa trees are not protected from the sun when it is too strong.

18. Sometimes growers put banana trees or taros into the cocoa plantation, to give shade for the young cocoa trees. If these are planted long enough before the cocoa trees, they give good protection.

But if they are planted at the same time as the cocoa trees, they do not protect the young cocoa trees well enough and they take nourishment out of the soil.

19. To give shade it Is better to keep a few of the forest trees.

You should cut first all the tall weeds, the creepers and the small trees.

Make heaps of what you have cut down and arrange the heaps in rows.
It is better not to burn all the vegetation you cut. Leave It on the ground.

It protects the soil against erosion and sun. It rots and makes humus.

If you have to burn the vegetation you have cut, you must sow a cover crop.

20. Next, go through the plantation a second time:

Now cut down all the trees which might give some disease to the cocoa trees.

And cut down also all trees that give too much shade. But leave those large trees which can give no disease to the cocoa trees, and which give a lime shade

When the cocoa trees have grown taller, they need less shade.

You should gradually give them less and less shade. You should prune the big trees and cut off those branches that cast too much shade.

When the plantation is well cared for, you can cut down all the big trees.

When the cocoa trees have grown, it is better to get rid of the unwanted shade trees by using tree- killing chemical products. This way causes less damage than cutting them down.

21. In Cameroon, for example,

· Farmers always remove the following trees:

Local name

Botanical name


Piptadeniastrum africanum


Erythrophloeum guineense


Pentaclethra macrophylla


Distemonanthus benthamianus


Uapaca staudtii


Macrolobium or Berlinia


Macrolobium limba


Myrianthus arboreus


Musanga cecropioides

· Leave In the plantation:


Terminalia superba


Ficus vogeliana


Aibizzia ferruginea


Albizzia fastigiata


Alstonia boonei


Pycnanthus kombo

22. In Ivory Coast

· Farmers always remove the following trees:


Piptadeniastrum africanum


Triplochiton scleroxylon


Childovia sanguinea

Aiya, Kotib/TD>

Nesogordonia papaverifera


Cola nitida


Corynanthe pachyceras




Cola spp.


Boto, Kotoki/TD>

Sterculia tragacantha


Ceiba pentandra

Akogaouan, Oba

Bombax spp.

Grand Wounian

Myrianthus preussi


Treculia africana


Rauwolfia vomitoria



· Leave In the plantation:


Trema guineensis


Chlorophora excelsa




Allophylus africanus

Sipo, Tiama

Entandro phragma

Pri, Pousso ou/TD>



Combretodendron africanum


Alstonia boonei

Minghi, Bah/TD>


Oual Nd

Pycnanthus angolensis




Antrocaryon micraster


Musanga cecropioides


Lannea welwitschii



Preparing to plant cocoa trees

23. With traditional methods, planting is most often done in a haphazard way.

The cocoa trees are not planted in rows.

There is not the same distance between them.

When the trees are too far apart, they do not use all the soil; when they are too close, they grow badly.

Instead, you should always plant in rows.

First mark the rows for the cocoa trees, leaving about 2.5 to 3 metres between rows.

Along each row, mark out with pegs the spots where the cocoa trees are to go.

Leave about 2.5 to 3 metres between trees.

In this way you can plant about 1000 to 1600 seedlings per hectare.

24. Digging the holes

Before planting cocoa trees, the grower must dig holes in order to stir the earth and loosen it.

Dig the holes two months before planting the cocoa trees.

When you are digging the hole, do not mix together the soil from above and the soil from below:

Make two separate heaps.

Planting cocoa trees in a plantation

Sometimes growers sow cocoa seeds straight away in the plantation. This is a bad thing to do.
It is better to put into the plantation either young cocoa seedlings from your own nursery beds, or cocoa seedlings bought from a research centre.

25. A few hours before lifting the seedlings from the nursery beds, water the soil. Then take the seedlings out of the nursery beds with a spade or a hoe. Be very careful not to break the roots.
Next sort out the cocoa seedlings. Throw away diseased plants and plants that have a twisted tap- root.
You can dip the roots of the seedlings in liquid mud, so that the cocoa plants take root again easily.

26. When to plant cocoa trees Plant cocoa trees at the beginning of the rainy sea son.
Choose a day when the soil is moist and when the sky is cloudy. Plant the young cocoa trees when they are about 6 months old.

27. How to plant cocoa trees A few days before planting, fill in the holes you have dug. At the bottom of the hole, put the soil you have dug out from the top, and on top put the soil you have dug out from below. You may mix the soil with manure.

How to plant cocoa trees

When you are ready to plant, make a small hole. In this small hole place your young cocoa seedling. If you have sown your seeds in baskets or bags, make a hole big enough to hold the root ball with the cocoa seedling. Be very careful not to twist the tap- root.

Do not cover the crown with earth.
Pack the soil down well around the tap- root.
For the first few days, protect the cocoa seedling from the sun.
If there are palm trees in your village, use a palm frond.