Develop a CSC Plan

Learn how to identify your major problems and opportunities, develop and prioritize solutions to the problems, and design, implement, monitor and evaluate climate-smart actions and plans for your cocoa production.

Develop a CSC Plan


Climate Smart Cocoa requires by definition a more nuanced approach to determining what constitutes a “good” agriculture practice by accounting for site- and time-specific variability such as climate, vulnerability and capacities of producers to identify and adopt climate smart responses when needed. Traditional guidance such as national sustainability curriculums and GAP manuals may be insufficiently tailored to local variability, particularly under conditions of future climate uncertainty and volatility. We propose a framework to prioritize CSC options that is rigorous yet flexible and sufficiently lean to be applied by value chain actors in a relatively short amount of time with limited resources and resulting in an evidence-based action plan. This framework has been developed and tested over five years with Climate Smart Value Chain projects in Latin America, Africa and Asia. It has been used predominantly in value chains dominated by smallholder producers, though all of the approaches may also be applied to larger landholders and also to annual crops. The framework consists of a spatial risk scan, prioritization of responses, identification of barriers to response adoption, and business plan development for financially viable implementation.

Put briefly, the plan starts with the compilation of multidimensional characteristics at the regional or national level (agricultural snapshot). Second, short, medium or long-term approaches are prioritized based on the preferences of stakeholders such as donors and farmers (time-scale assessment). Then, a participatory approach with stakeholders at different stages of the value chain is taken to evaluate which practices most likely to lead to the desired results (initial list of CSC practices). Cost-benefit analyses indicate the economic viability of the listed practices and help allocate resources efficiently (Costs and benefits of CSC practices). Knowing the institutional and policy framework will prevent conflicting information from reaching farmers and potentially foster collaboration (institutional and policy entry points). At this point, scaling out practices may become a possibility, especially through coupling CSC practices with business incentives (e.g. certification) (Scaling pathways and enabling interventions). The end of the plan is an assessment of cocoa specific climatic changes and other potential changes induced by the implementation of the previous steps of the plan (assessment of climatic changes and potential impacts).  

Agricultural snapshot

The situation analysis begins with a snapshot of the key characteristics of the cocoa production system, including its social, economic, and biophysical dimensions. Emphasis should be placed on the challenges facing the system (e.g. climate change related risks) and the roadblocks and opportunities for CSC approaches. For an overview, this analysis can include the added value of the sector to national GDP, average cocoa plot sizes, income inequality (rural Gini index), types of production systems (e.g. monoculture, agroforestry), productive species planted alongside cocoa, interactions between cocoa stakeholders, gender analyses, sources of GHG emissions in cocoa farming, etc. Information related to the cocoa sector is available from FAOSTAT, the World Bank, the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO), national statistical databases, published articles in scientific journals as well as publications from other international organizations like CIAT, the World Cocoa Foundation, UTZ, etc.

Assessment of relevant time scales

Cocoa is cultivated over several decades and many promising adaptation options require many years of lead-time before coming into full effect. Also, in practice, the decision to work on climate resilience often comes from the donor and it has already been prioritized as a relevant intervention. It is nevertheless important to understand the farmer’s priorities. Long term climatic change may be of high relevance for outside actors interested in the sustainability of the system, whereas producers may struggle with daily concerns over food security. Often, decisions are taken on short (daily to seasonal) timescales, in which case long-term projections may be of lesser concern. In these cases, improved resilience to climate variability, supported by climate services based on historical data, realtime monitoring, and shorter-term forecasts, can be the most effective way to build resilience to future changes in climate risk. It can be helpful to remind oneself that sustainable intensification of production is one of the pillars of climate smart cocoa. A promising approach can be to better align basic farming practices with the seasons and establish contingency plans for adverse events, than promoting more advanced interventions such as irrigation that may even require some access to finance.

Generate an initial list of CSC practices

The CSC practices prioritization can based on the Climate Smart Agriculture Rapid Appraisal (CSA-RA) methodology (Mwongera et al, 2017). The CSA-RA methodology is designed to assess the heterogeneity of local contexts and prioritize context specific CSA options. This is a bottom-up and gender-disaggregated approach that gathers perceptions on climate vulnerability, constraints, and CSA priorities of different social groups (male & female) as well as local experts and authority levels. In workshops, farmers are asked to indicate all agricultural practices that address challenge of climate change based on their knowledge and understanding. The initial list of practices generated by farmers should then revalidated and complemented with local experts’ opinions in the form of discussion in experts’ workshop. Indicators of technical feasibility, applicability, profitability, sustainability, investment capital, market access and resilience to climate variability (e.g. too much rain, too hot, drought, flood, unpredictable weather, etc.) should be used to prioritize practices. The result of this bottom-up approach is a list of validated practices that are readily acceptable to farmers, but that can nevertheless be linked to observed or projected climate hazards.

Understand cost and benefits of CSC practices

Farmers are resource constrained: they lack the financial capacity and knowledge of expected returns to adopt new practices. Making an economic argument for investments in climate smart practices and the present value of future benefits can be a determining factor in increasing adoption rates of the practices and for obtaining the necessary credit to finance them. From the initial set of climate smart practices potential “Best bet” options should be identified for scaling out. The costs and benefits of these practices can then be compared to a conventional – well managed – reference system. CBA refers to a systematic approach of identifying, valuing and comparing options to make decisions on whether or not to implement an investment given limited. CBAs are a common tool in the evaluation of investment opportunities and allocate scarce resources efficiently. Cost and benefits of CSC practices data can be collected from several sources. Household surveys, expert panels, focus group discussions or secondary data that is amended with key informant data can be useful to estimate costs and benefits. CBA can then be employed to assess the farm-level economic impact of different CSC practices over a certain time horizon. The two most common indicators in CBA are Net Present Value (NPV) and Internal Rate of Return (IRR). However, we believe that CBA should also be understood as a tool to quantitatively capture barriers to adoption so that adequate incentives can be developed.

Identification of institutional and policy entry points

The existing policy and institutional framework can serve as a springboard as well as a barrier to CSC approaches. Projects must ensure that conflicting information and resources are not passed on to farmers. However, institutions can also be engaged, and policy developed, by showing the relation between current practices and CSC objectives, and how the CSC approach can help improve results. This required analyses of current projects of public and private institutions. CSA country profiles can be adapted to CSC to map stakeholders and review activities related to CSC.

Scaling pathways and enabling interventions

Active efforts to scale out CSC practices require a multi-stakeholder approach becauses no single technology or scaling pathway may account for the diversity of decision environments of the actors involved. Together with organizational development, we suggest complementary scaling pathways for climate smart cocoa that respond to business incentives: Voluntary certification, carbon insetting, impact investing, sustainability branding. Certifiers act both as a verification body of sustainable practices and providers of training. Certifiers’ interest in climate adaptation is grounded on the premise that the final consumer is willing to pay a premium for certified products. By facilitating access to certification to those smallholders that are organic by default, certifiers would be able to provide economic incentives and innovative training to a large segment on farmers. Management practices such as shade use and reforestation influence have the double benefit of both reducing climate vulnerability and increasing carbon stocks in cocoa. In some cases, these synergies can be used to incentivize and subsidize adaptation actions through carbon accounting for mitigation actions. Carbon insetting offers to offset GHG emission in the coffee supply chain or processes. Trading companies could offset their GHG foot print by investing in carbon sequestering activities at farmer level that at the same time support the adaptation of farmers to progressive climate change. Financing possibilities for these joint adaptation mitigation activities can arise through carbon offsetting, carbon insetting, and carbon footprint reductions. The interest of companies to invest in CSC depends on their business model and the scale of their operations. Companies that work closely with farmers tend to not separate efforts into climate or sustainability efforts, but rather focus on holistic programs to increase productivity and make cocoa farming attractive. Large brands source large quantities and choose to invest in climate change activities out of a volumes based business case. “Front-runner” companies are concerned about supply volumes, but in addition generate value from brand reputation. Last, the value of smaller brands is often based on social and environmental reputation. Therefore, the latter have a higher capacity to develop solutions in direct contact with their smallholder base than the larger companies. They can therefore act as catalysts to innovate CSC approaches that can be mainstreamed by the more risk-adverse large brands with their large constituencies to achieve CSC adoption at scale. Social investment funds seek to maximize positive social and environmental effects of investments by providing finance for rural small businesses for both short and long term investments. Working with producer organizations rather than individual farmers may provide efficient incentives for adoption of financeable CSC. However, currently incentive investors are limited in their constituencies.

Assessment of climatic changes and potential impacts

Our risk assessment tool can help you to develop an initial assessment of cocoa specific climatic changes. We provide some key data that provides a quantitative backdrop to the participatory development of locally adapted CSC interventions.

Step 1) Global agro-climatic zones for cocoa production

Embed the intervention region in the global context. Globally, cocoa is produced agro-climatic zones that have important differences in their climatic characteristics. Interventions to address risks in one zone may be useful within the same zone, but scaling beyond the agro-climatic zone should be evaluated with care.

Step 2) Future distribution of agro-climatic zones for cocoa

How will this context change in the future? We developed a most likely future scenario for the distribution of the agro-climatic zones for cocoa. Some regions may stay similar, while others may face profound changes. This step gives some indication of this. An unchanged agro-climatic zone makes it more likely that currently used climate risk management strategies can be successful in the future as well. Changing climate zones may require more comprehensive measures (see also Step 3). In the future we may also see the emergence of novel climates that don’t have a homolog under historic climate. This is reflected in our zoning in the increasing distribution of “Not classified” zones. These areas may remain suitable but are not necessarily similar to the climates that were observed in the past due to unknown temperature and precipitation combinations. Disclaimer: there is large uncertainty about the future distribution of precipitation, which is of high importance for cocoa production. Therefore this assessment should always be contextualized with locally observed trends (Step 4).

Step 3) Degree of change

To define a top-level strategy it can be useful to make the degree of change explicit. Regions that may become unsuitable for cocoa will need a different intervention strategy than regions where the agro-climatic zone remains unchanged. We differentiate 5 different recommendation domains for adaptation strategies: Transformation, systemic resilience, systemic change, incremental adaptation and expansion. Each of these zones will require different types of interventions:

Transformation zones in the future share characteristics of unsuitable climates. Adaptation of cocoa to such conditions maybe technically challenging or costly so that a sustainable transformation of cocoa production to alternative agro-forestry systems may be preferential. At the least, some degree of diversification, varieties with abiotic stress tolerance and similar interventions should be considered.

Systemic resilience zones will likely remain suitable in the future but there is high disagreement between climate models about future outcomes. It is therefore insufficient to assume unchanged or specific future climatic conditions. Interventions should prepare producers to a wide range of possible futures. For example, multi-variety plantations instead of choosing a single “best” variety, soil preservation to increase plant health or water management. In addition, diversification, insurance schemes and climate services should be implemented.

Systemic change zones will likely shift from one agro-climatic zone to another with some degree of agreement between climate models. Such changes put the future success of current cultivation practices in doubt. Changes in pest and disease threats, more humid or drier conditions may require a readjustment of the system. Interventions could include replanting with new varieties, a change from no shade to shade or similar deep changes. In addition, climate services and incentive schemes should support the implementation.

Incremental change zones will remain within the same agro-climatic zone. This however, does not imply that there will not be climatic changes that require changes. Increasing temperatures may change humidity or pest and disease threats. However, known good agricultural practices are likely useful interventions to confront such threats. As cultivation in such regions may remain relatively profitable compared to higher risk zones, we expect a higher risk of cocoa driven deforestation in the incremental change zone. This should be monitored.

Expansion zones are areas that previously appeared unattractive for cocoa production. In such regions cocoa could be introduced as an alternative where appropriate. Many authors claim that cocoa production is more sustainable than livestock, and in such cases cocoa could play a positive role towards more sustainable landscapes. Deforestation driven by cocoa should be monitored.

Step 4) Observed trends in cocoa regions

Climate change may already be manifest in observed climatic trends. Global climate models agree about changes in temperature but may disagree about precipitation. In such cases it may be helpful to understand more about the observed changes of the climate over the last 30 years. For a wide range of agro-climatic variables we show annual trends where they were significant. This step can tell you, for example, if the mean trend for dry season precipitation was positive or negative. Doing so increases confidence when planning interventions and may help to align with local perceptions of change to increase adoption. Of course, in tropical regions climate variability is high and the climate signal may not be significant, on the other hand past changes may have local causes or may not be extrapolated in the future. Hence, it is important to also consider the projections.

Step 5) Current and future climate graph

Gives you the ability to download a climate graph for a global grid cell of interest. It shows the historic distribution of precipitation and also shows the modeled future projections. You could use this for example to build and adapt cropping calendars in intervention zones, or validate observed trends from Step 4).

Step 6) Avoid deforestation

Do no harm is the key principle for climate smart cocoa. Cocoa driven deforestation should be avoided to mitigate future climate change. Land use conversion driven by smallholders is a major GHG source and a big liability in the carbon footprint of cocoa production. CIAT’s Terra-I is a near real time monitoring system of habitat loss. Its data can be used to monitor recent tree cover loss in intervention regions. This information should be used to develop and monitor zero-deforestation initiatives.

Key studies

– Sala S, Rossi F, David S. 2016. Supporting agricultural extension towards Climate-Smart Agriculture An overview of existing tools. Rome, Italy: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

USAID, 2018. An introduction to assessing climate resilience in smallholder supply chains. USAID Feed the Future learning community for supply chain resilience.

Lojka, B., Pawera, L., Kalousová, M., Bortl, L., Verner, V., Houška, J., Vanhove, W. and Van Damme, P., 2017. Multistrata Systems: Potentials and Challenges of Cocoa-based Agroforests in the Humid Tropics. In Agroforestry (pp. 587-628). Springer, Singapore.

CGIAR. CCAFS Regional Agricultural Forecasting Tool (CRAFT). Viewed 23 June 2018.

Schroth, G., Läderach, P., Martinez-Valle, A.I., Bunn, C. and Jassogne, L., 2016. Vulnerability to climate change of cocoa in West Africa: Patterns, opportunities and limits to adaptation. Science of the Total Environment, 556, pp.231-241.

Bunn, C. Talsma, T. Läderach, P. Castro, F., 2017. Climate change impacts on Indonesian cocoa areas. Center for International Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

Eitzinger, A., Farrell, A., Rhiney, K., Carmona, S., van Loosen, I. and Taylor, M., 2015. Trinidad and Tobago: assessing the impact of climate change on cocoa and tomato.

Läderach, P., Martinez-Valle, A., Schroth, G. and Castro, N., 2013. Predicting the future climatic suitability for cocoa farming of the world’s leading producer countries, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. Climatic change, 119(3-4), pp.841-854.

Mwongera, C., Shikuku, K., Twyman, J., Läderach,P., Ampaire, E., Van Asten, P., Twomlow, S., Winowiecki, L., 2017. Climate smart agriculture rapid appraisal (CSA-RA): A tool for prioritizing context-specific climate smart agriculture technologies. Agricultural System,151, pp. 192-203.

Case study: CSA Country profile for Côte d’Ivoire


This document on the CSA profile of Côte d’Ivoire is the result of a collaborative effort between the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). It is based on a methodology developed jointly by CIAT, the World Bank, and the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE). It builds upon a 2014 series of CSA country profiles commissioned by the World Bank.

CSC considerations in Côte d’Ivoire include:

  • Côte d’Ivoire is the largest cocoa producer in the world. Cocoa beans make up 44% of Ivorian exports.
  • Young people and women have difficulties in accessing land, specially where environmental degradation and population pressures are more intense.
  • Cocoa is cultivated mainly in the forest zone, making it a crucial crop to counter deforestation which, at the current rate, is set lead to the loss of all national forests by 2034.
  • Links between forest policy and other policies are poor.
  • Cocoa production makes up 53% of the total harvested area of Côte d’Ivoire, followed by cashew at 23%. 
  • Climate vulnerabilities include erratic rainfall. ENSO has been associated with a yield decrease of 20%.
  • CSC practices including organic manure and cocoa-plantain agroforestry are common in Ivorian cocoa farms.
  • Cocoa-plantain agroforest has been adopted by over 2 million smallholders and it can be found in 13% of the agricultural area and are useful during prolonged dry periods and during the early phase of cocoa. Anti-erosion CSC practices have low levels of adoption.
  • The Cocoa Coffee Council (2QC sustainability program), the World Cocoa foundation, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, the World Agroforestry Centred (ICRAF), and the National Center for Agronomic Research (CNRA) are among the institutions involved in promoting cocoa-banana agroforestry.
  • CNRA carries out CSA research related to cocoa.