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The Impact of Deforestation in Côte d’Ivoire

Deforestation in Côte d’IvoireCôte d’Ivoire, commonly known as Ivory Coast, is a West African country renowned for its cocoa production. Nevertheless, the nation is experiencing a problem of rapid deforestation, which intensifies poverty and exacerbates social inequality.

Deforestation in Côte d’Ivoire

In Côte d’Ivoire, people cleared vast areas of forest for agriculture and timber extraction dating back to the colonial period. Nonetheless, population growth and an expanded desire for land and resources led to a sharp escalation in the extent of deforestation that occurred in the latter half of the 20th century.

Deforestation in Côte d’Ivoire has several factors, including illegal cocoa farming, agricultural expansion and logging for wood and charcoal. According to Global Forest Watch (GFW), the country, in 2010, had natural forest coverage of 13.9Mha, and this accounted for 43% of its total land area. However, by 2021, it experienced a loss of 182kha of natural forest.

The consequences of deforestation in the country are far-reaching, ranging from soil erosion to biodiversity loss and climate change. In addition, deforestation negatively affects the livelihoods of rural communities that rely on forests for their lives. Deforestation has led to water scarcity, lower agricultural productivity and increased poverty, especially for small-scale farmers.

Deforestation and Poverty

In Côte d’Ivoire, one-quarter of the population lives below the national poverty line. In 2017, the Earthworm Organization interviewed 755 people from 66 villages in the Cavally Reserve to investigate the causes of illegal cocoa farming. According to these interviews, many locals (86%) earn insufficient income to meet their basic needs; the primary reasons for the illegal cultivation of cocoa included a lack of alternative employment opportunities and extreme poverty.

Stopping Deforestation in Côte d’Ivoire

Reports suggest that halting deforestation and poverty in Côte d’Ivoire requires a multi-pronged approach. One of the critical solutions is to promote sustainable land use practices that protect the forest while improving the livelihoods of rural communities. Integrating trees into agricultural systems through agroforestry could be a critical solution to halting deforestation and poverty in the country.

other suggestions involve addressing the root causes of deforestation, such as weak forest governance, illegal logging and land grabbing. International cooperation and finance are also crucial for assisting sustainable forest management in Côte d’Ivoire. This entails encouraging ethical investment and trade, lowering the demand for non-sustainable goods and funding assisted conservation initiatives, according to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Looking Ahead

In 2020, the Green Climate Fund approved an $11.8 million project by the FAO to promote zero-deforestation cocoa production in Côte d’Ivoire. The project aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience to climate change by stopping agriculture-related deforestation, improving productivity, conserving biodiversity, replenishing forest cover and improving the livelihood of the farmers. Around 7,550 farmers and 2 million smallholder producers will benefit directly. Additionally, around 600,000 smallholder producers will benefit indirectly.

Nestlé is also enhancing its environmentally responsible strategy to combat deforestation in Côte d’Ivoire. The Ivorian subsidiary of the company plans to strengthen its supply chain for cocoa in the country to guarantee the sustainability of the forests by training local farmers on agricultural practices and agroforestry. It also plans to distribute more than one million indigenous and fruit trees to make farms more climate resilient.

– Amber Kim
Photo: Flickr