Cocoa farmers who grow illegally in protected forest reserves are facing more than simple eviction by conservation agents. According to victims and rights groups, the conservation agents are threatening prosecution and violence in order to extort money from farmers.
An estimated 80 per cent of Côte d’Ivoire’s forest has been chopped down in the past 50 years to accommodate expanded cocoa production. President Alassane Ouattara has pledged to restore forest coverage to 20 per cent, up from the six per cent of the country that is currently forested. But farmers claim that this effort has led to violence and threats from conservation agents.
Cocoa farmer Bienvenu Bago has been farming illegally for the past three years in the Cavally forest reserve. He says forestry agents poured petrol on him, threatening to set him alight. He added, “Where am I going to file a complaint? Against whom? I’m afraid, because I’m in the forest illegally.”
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Photo credit: REUTERS/Luc Gnago