Ivory Coast seeks to save forests from illegal cocoa boom.
Oct 08, 2015 The Ivorian government recently made public its plans to expel thousands of illegal cocoa farmers from parks and reserves in a bid to save the country’s forests from degradation. According to analyst, the planned eviction may lead to a fall in cocoa production and will ultimately drive up the price of chocolate around the world.
Ivorian officials have confirmed that 99 percent of the MontPeko National Park has been destroyed by cocoa farmers, who took advantage of the decade-long political crisis. With the chaos over, the government is taking steps to re-exert state authority on the reserves.
Kpolo Ouattara, an agent from the Office of Parks and Reserves said:
“In a national park, no one has the the right to speculate and traffic coffee and cocoa. Before we arrived, it was a zone that had been taken hostage by buyers of both pesticide products and cocoa. When we started to gain control of the park in 2014/2015, following some criticism, we regulated access to the park,”
Although evictions have been slated for December, the government still faces the possibility of a social unrest.
Attieke Yao Konan, a local farmer bemoaned the proposed eviction saying:
“In 2010, the government delimited the forests, and they told us that we were in a forest reserve and asked us to stop cutting down the forest. Honestly, I have 18 children today. I live in the forest and I can’t find food. I cannot protect a forest without food, so at the moment, I cannot lie before God and on the land that I haven’t cleared. Personally, I cut down some trees to make my yam plantation. It is what my children and I eat to survive,”
Ivory Coast recently upped its cocoa production to a record 1.74 million tons from 1.2 million tons in 2001. However analysts have attributed the increased output to the slash and burn agriculture in protected forests.
But with the increase in production came the decrease in wildlife.
“With the post-election crisis, people infiltrated the forests and destroyed everything, both plant life and wildlife. The animals have virtually all disappeared, whereas before, we used to see some duikers and elephants. But we have high hopes because as foresters, we know that although much has been destroyed, there are still small areas that must be preserved so that vegetation can return to how it was,” added Ouattara.