Atlas of Climate Change Impact on cocoa production in Central America and the Caribbean

Atlas del impacto del cambio climático sobre el cultivo del cacao en Centroamérica y El Caribe

Cocoa is an important crop in the economy of thousands of families in Central America and the Caribbean and, in the past decade, its production has gradually increased in the region. The crop has not escaped the impacts of climate change, which result in higher temperature and climate variability.

Hence, the following questions emerge: What could be the impact of climate change on cocoa in the Central America and Caribbean region? And how could cocoa farmers in this region adapt and build resilience in the face of the changes that lie ahead?

In the atlas “Climate Change Impact on Cocoa Production in Central America and the Caribbean,” developed by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in collaboration with the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) and Rikolto, we answer the first question by using “machine learning” models such as Random Forests. Based on such a model, we estimated the probability of suitability of cocoa for the baseline (1970–2000) and for the future (2020–2049/2040–2069). Data of presence of cocoa (location of cocoa farms) and climatic variables related to precipitation, temperature, and evapotranspiration were used for training the models.

Descargar atlas aquí

The first result of this modeling exercise is the identification and mapping of the different Agro-climatic Zones (ZAC) suitable for cocoa cultivation, both for baseline and future climate scenarios. The maps show suitable areas categorized by the following agro-climatic zones: hot – dry, temperate – very dry, very hot – dry, cold – wet and temperate – very wet.

From the differentiation of these zones in various periods of time, the impact gradients of the cocoa growing territories are estimated, which indicate the degree of effort that would be needed to continue cultivating cocoa in a sustainable manner. We estimate four different categories of impact gradient: Opportunities, Incremental adaptation, Systemic adaptation and Transformational adaptation. The description and location of different impact gradients are available in the Atlas.

For example, the maps show large areas of transformational adaptation (loss of suitability) on the Pacific Coast of El Salvador and Guatemala and large areas of systemic adaptation in central and northern Nicaragua. For the Dominican Republic, the maps show large areas of incremental transformation and a significant area of ​​opportunities where cocoa cultivation can be expanded. In October and November 2018, during workshops held in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic, the results of the modeling exercise were discussed with more than 100 key stakeholders of the cocoa sectors in the region, including representatives of growers associations and members of the private and public sectors.

Taller en El Salvador
Mesa de trabajo en El Salvador
Visita a cultivos de cacao
Taller en Honduras
Taller en Guatemala
Talleres de cacao en República Dominicana

The workshops allowed identifying practices that can help farmers to face the climate risks in each of the climate change impact gradient zones, and participants provided feedback on the modeling results. In the short term, we will be able to share the most promising Climate-Smart Cocoa practices, which we intend to use to answer that second question about what to do and how to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

It was a nice experience to be able to share the results of the study with key stakeholders in the region. It also helped confirm our need to be able to explain the scientific conclusions using non-technical language so that there is a better understanding among all of the actors. My experience was enriching in every sense, not only for sharing the results of the study but also for learning more about the agricultural practices used by growers in the region, and knowing what each actor would do according to the gradient categories of the climatic impact presented. In each of the meetings, we found people eager to contribute to the study by sharing their opinions on the results. I believe that with good planning, effective participation of diverse actors, and integration of science with empirical knowledge, we can build a solid front to face climate change.

Key elements of the work were implemented as part of:


Climate Smart Value Chains of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and the USAID Feed the Future Learning Community for Supply Chain and Resilience consortium who lead the study.


FTF-Programa Climate Smart Cocoa

funded by USAID and WCF members, who supported this study. View more

Knowledge Management of Cacao Value Chain in Central America

Funded by COSUDE and implemented by Rikolto, who contributed to the study. View more

“To face the challenges of climate change and improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers, it is urgent to promote climate-smart cocoa agroforestry systems. To design these systems, specific information is needed on climate trends and appropriate practices for each of the territories. CIAT, Rikolto and WCF developed this Atlas with maps and data to help deepen the knowledge about the impact of climate change and analyze adaptation and mitigation options for the different cocoa-growing territories in the region.”

Falguni Guharay

Manager Program Climate Smart Cocoa Latin America, World Cocoa Foundation

Download the Atlas at the following link:

The data obtained from the study can be downloaded at:



To learn more about the study and cocoa programs contact us:

Christian Bunn

Christian Bunn

Postdoctoral Scientist-Sustainable Food Systems, CIAT
Falguni Guharay

Falguni Guharay

Program Manager Latin America, FTF-Climate Smart Cocoa
Fabio A. Castro-Llanos

Fabio A. Castro-Llanos

Research assistant, Sustainable Food Systems, CIAT
Ninoska Hurtado

Ninoska Hurtado

Regional Coordinator, Knowledge Management for Cocoa Value Chain in Central America (El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala y Nicaragua), Rikolto
Jennifer Wiegel

Jennifer Wiegel

Regional Coordinator Central America, CIAT