Cacao trees prefer to live a sheltered life, hidden under the canopy of taller trees such as rubber trees, breadfruit, laurel and various legumes. Especially in the first two to four years of life, cacao trees require deep shade. To make their farms most productive, farmers often grow cacao trees under food crops such as banana, plantain, coconut, cocoyam or hardwood trees. Learn more about the cacao tree.
As the trees begin to mature, however, they can grow in full sun if given proper conditions and intensive care. Plantations of cultivated trees usually are in valleys or coastal plains. They must have evenly distributed rainfall and rich, well-drained soil.
To grow cacao in the sun, the farmers simply remove the trees shading the young cacao. Sun plantations produce more cocoa than shade farming methods, but with tradeoffs.
As a result, many cocoa farmers are using sustainable farming techniques, many promoted by the global chocolate and cocoa companies.