Côte d’Ivoire is the world’s top cocoa producer, but the country’s principal economic activity is driving devastating deforestation, which harms the environment and feeds the illicit timber trade.
Cocoa expert Simon Nanga told the Enact organised crime project that farmers typically relied on natural soil fertility in virgin forests for high cocoa yields. Natural soil has better nutrients than already-farmed cocoa fields. This leads to forests being cleared to allow for cocoa cultivation.
The classified forests of Ivory Coast will enjoy a little respite. Agents of the Ministry of Water and Forests have started a control mission in the classified forests in the south and east of the country. As a result, the activities of three logging companies have been suspended. Illegal logging is a major factor in deforestation in Ivory Coast, where forests now cover only 9.2% of the national territory.
This cocoa-growing settlement was all but destroyed last year by Ivorian forest agents, leaving farmers to rake through their beans amid broken concrete and other remnants.
“They set the whole village on fire,” said Alexis Kouassi Akpoue, describing the day in January 2020 when the agents raided the settlement in Rapides Grah, a protected forest, where he had illicitly planted cocoa with thousands of other farmers. “The next morning at 5 o’clock they sent in the bulldozers.”