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Ivory Coast to Expel Cocoa Farmers From Largest Forest Reserve


FILE - A cocoa tree with cocoa fruits is seen at El Carmen Estate in Jayaque, El Salvador July 20, 2016.

Top cocoa producer Ivory Coast will launch an operation to expel thousands of illegal farmers from the Goin-Debe forest reserve, the West African nation's largest, a government spokesman said on Thursday.

The decision is part of efforts to protect forests in Ivory Coast, which has lost much of its rainforest to agriculture.

"We will immediately proceed with ... the identification of the occupiers of the Goin-Debe forest and the end of the occupations," Bruno Kone said after a cabinet meeting in the commercial capital Abidjan.

Ivory Coast's water and forests minister this week said that authorities planned to end illegal farming on protected lands within five years.

Kone said the operation would involve the deployment of about 1,000 defense and security forces personnel to the western Cavally region, where Goin-Debe is located, for an initial three months.

"There will then be a vast disarmament and security operation in the region," he said.

The 134,000-hectare Goin-Debe reserve has been at the heart of recent violence between immigrant cocoa farmers and local indigenous ethnic groups.