News / Economy

Ivory Coast Moves Cocoa Farmers from Protected Forests

FILE - A pro-Ouattara soldier belonging to the Republican Forces of Ivory Coast (FRCI) stands near farmers breaking open cocoa pods in this file photo from May 19, 2011. The government wants to clear farmers from 231 forest preserves.
FILE - A pro-Ouattara soldier belonging to the Republican Forces of Ivory Coast (FRCI) stands near farmers breaking open cocoa pods in this file photo from May 19, 2011. The government wants to clear farmers from 231 forest preserves.
The Ivory Coast is clearing tens of thousands of cocoa farmers from protected forests, threatening exports from the world's top grower and leading to complaints about human rights abuses.
Cocoa represents about 10 percent of the former French colony's economic output but the environmental costs of the industry's growth have been high.
The European Union estimates three-quarters of the West African country's forests, have disappeared in the past five decades, mainly due to farming including cocoa plantations.
President Alassane Ouattara's government says it is prepared to pay the economic price of phasing agriculture out to save the dwindling tropical forest and the security services have started flattening houses and forcefully removing the farmers.
“In America, you couldn't imagine people illegally occupying Central Park just because they say they have nowhere else to live, could you?” said government spokesman Bruno Kone.
Ouattara has won praise and promises of billions of dollars in funding from world powers for rebuilding Ivory Coast after a brief war that followed his 2010 election win.
The forestry service says around half the 4.2 million hectares of protected forest reserves are illegally occupied and The evictions form part of his efforts to reassert state authority after a decade of stagnation and political turmoil.
It also tallies with his plan to diversify the economy away from cocoa, which accounts for 40 percent of exports.
There also appears to be pressure on Ivory Coast to clear up its forestry sector as it starts negotiations with the European Union over a new timber trade agreement although illegal logging operates on a much smaller scale than cocoa farming.
But moving the farmers from the 231 reserves, some of whom have lived there with their families for decades, could leave them destitute, stirring unrest as well as hurting the economy.
“Everyone fed themselves through cocoa. Not everyone can make it in the city,” said Abo Baboue, a cocoa farmer, waiting beside a muddy track for a truck to carry off what belongings he could salvage after soldiers destroyed his home.
There are no figures for how many of Ivory Coast's 800,000 cocoa growers live and farm on protected land. In Niegre, the first forest to be cleared last month forestry agents counted 6,000 households - around 25,000 people - before the army moved in, cutting short the headcount.
Just weeks into the operation, those targeted have accusing security forces of abuse, including the looting of homes, stealing money and cocoa and, in some cases, rape, charges rejected by the government.
In Baleko-Niegre, the main settlement inside the Niegre forest, Reuters journalists saw flattened homes, shops and restaurants after forestry officials, flanked by heavily armed soldiers, bulldozed the area.
Amadou Ama, who sold metal sheeting for roofs, said he had provided shelter to homeless neighbors but soldiers broke down his door at night and dragged two women off.     

“The next morning I found them. They told me the soldiers had raped them,” he said.
A day later, his house was leveled too, he said.
Kone, the government spokesman, rejected the accusations.
“There have been no cases of rape or violence,” he said. “If they refuse to leave, if they are aggressive towards our agents, we reserve the right to respond.”
In a country awash with weapons, many larger plantation owners head their own armed militias and may not go peacefully.
Land available for new cocoa plantations ran out long before Ivory Coast's political crisis began in 2002, but output has continued to increase, largely from the forests.
The country produced 1.2 million tons of cocoa during the 2000/2001 season. Despite war, conflicts over land and ethnicity, and smuggling into neighboring Ghana, production hit a record 1.5 million tons 10 years later.
Farmers flooded in, many from neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso due to a loose immigration policy, often paying for land illegally sold by local villagers, a practice that the government says has continued during Ouattara's first two years in power.
The illegal plantations in the Niegre forest produce between 60,000 and 70,000 tons of cocoa annually.
“A large share of the cocoa produced in this country comes from the forest reserves...The plantations inside the reserves are the youngest and most productive,” said one cocoa exporter based in the country's second-largest port, San Pedro.
Development workers familiar with the government's plans say long-term squatters will be allowed to keep to their plantations, as long as they live outside the reserve, until they are taken over by replanted hardwood and softwood trees.
Traders say next year's main crop harvest could be the first to take a hit if farmers are not able to access and tend their plantations during July and August.
But in any case, the government's goal is to stop farming in the reserves altogether, even if it hurts growth.
“If that's the price to pay, we're ready to pay it. This is something that is more important than a simple question of tonage,” said Kone.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies


Rates may not be current.