Soro Yafolo Sita | October 13, 2023
Gaoussou Coné is on a six-hectare plot of reforested land on the Affery-Adzopé road, checking to see that his seedlings have taken root. He is the general secretary of an organization of forest and plantation owners that is helping communities fight deforestation. The organization is seeking the support of village leaders to raise community awareness on forest registration and the importance of reforestation. It also provides seedlings to restore degraded land, caring for the land and trees for three years before returning them to the landowner.
It’s a July morning in Affery, in southern Côte d’Ivoire’s Adzopé district, 100 km from Abidjan. The sun is peeking over the horizon and the clouds gradually dissipating, revealing a clear blue sky.
Gaoussou Coné is on a six-hectare plot of reforested land on the Affery-Adzopé road, checking to see that some seedlings have taken root. Mr. Coné says: “We have supervised the owner in the reforestation of his land. The forest has been completely destroyed, but in a few years there will be a variety of plants.”
Mr. Coné is the general secretary of l’Association des propriétaires de forêts naturelles et plantations d’Affery, a group for owners of forests and plantations in the region. The association helps communities fight deforestation through raising awareness, donating trees, and giving advice. He tells communities that reforestation contributes to preserving biodiversity and ecosystems. It also prevents soil degradation and protects the fish and wildlife needed by local residents.
In order to raise community awareness, the association is seeking the support of village leaders. It also provides communities with information about how to register forests and about the Côte d’Ivoire Forest Code. Registration allows individuals to register a plot in their name, which acts like a deed of ownership for farmers. Mr. Coné says: “We check whether the legislation is respected by forest managers. During awareness-raising sessions, for example, we explain the best way to manage forests.”
The association also supports local communities on reforestation and forest protection. In the rainy season, it provides them with plants to restore degraded land free of charge. The association signs a contract with landowners, who make the land available. After reforestation, the association takes care of the trees for three years, then returns the land to the owner.
L’Association des propriétaires de forêts naturelles et plantations d’Affery promotes organic waste products as a source of clean cooking fuel. For example, it organizes training courses on how to produce charcoal from cocoa pods. Mr. Coné says that this technique avoids destroying the forest to meet community energy needs.
The Groupement Ivoirien de Reboisement et d`Entretien des Forêts, or Ivorian Reforestation and Forest Maintenance Group, is another group active in the fight against deforestation and forest degradation in Côte d’Ivoire. The NGO is located in the village of Bieby in Yakassé-Attobrou, about 130 kilometres from Abidjan. It promotes agricultural and reforestation techniques, restores forests, and encourages young people to participate in preserving forests. Amon Adja Jean Renaud is the founding president.
Mr. Renaud recalls the difficulties his NGO encountered in the early days: “Initially, the population didn’t buy into the initiative. We had to hold awareness-raising and training sessions, using leaflets with before-and-after photos of forest destruction. These photos show the consequences of deforestation, so that people understand the importance of planting trees.“
Over the past 60 years, Cote d’Ivoire has lost 90% of its forest cover, according to the government, which has identified forest preservation as a national priority. A new forest policy was adopted in May 2018, with the aim of increasing the forested area by three million hectares while maintaining existing forests. The country aims to increase its forest cover to 6.5 million hectares by 2030. To achieve this, the government has decided to reforest 100,000 hectares each year, at a cost of 600 billion FCFA (around $970,000 US).
The Conseil du Café-Cacao is the body responsible for managing coffee and cocoa production in Côte d’Ivoire. To support the government’s reforestation initiative, it will plant 60 million seedlings of forest species in rural areas by 2024. Similarly, the Projet d’investissement forestier 2 will create 320,000 hectares of agroforestry plantations. Finally, the government has launched reforestation projects such as “One school, 5 hectares of forest” in rural areas.
By 2022, l’Association des propriétaires de forêts naturelles et plantations d’Affery had reforested more than 50 hectares with indigenous seedlings, mainly Mansonia altissima, known locally as bois bété. Mr. Coné believes this will enable the people in Affery to practice farming while maintaining the forests.
He concludes: “We could have a Côte d’Ivoire that is beautiful and pleasant to live in, where people breathe good air. But for this to happen, everyone must commit to planting trees.”