Critics condemn placing multiple square miles of precious rainforest under the control of multi-national companies and Ivory Coast’s receding rainforests could be “completely wiped out” because of a new law which essentially removes legal protection from millions of miles of previously protected and classified forests with unprecedented powers handed to large chocolate manufacturers. Civil society groups, apprehend that the new forestry code, now being implemented, encourages intensive and unsustainable cocoa production and legalizes large-scale deforestation in much- ravaged areas.
Most of Ivory Coast’s 7,700 square miles of earmarked forests are heavily degraded, with 75% deforestation or more. Under control of international companies like Olam Cocoa and Siat, these forests will become ‘agro-forests’. Relatively intact National Parks and Forests will remain protected, while a middle category is proposed to be gradually restored. Politicians permit infrastructure construction in agro-forests to ensure forests will be wiped out. The government aims to save other forests by encouraging cocoa farming productivity in deforested areas.
Costs of Illegal Cocoa Farming
Cocoa farming provides for 10% of Ivory Coast’s GDP, but at a huge cost to its forests. In an industry that is worth $100 billion, workers earn less than a dollar a day, working away in unbearable heat without any shade and with heavy pesticides levels. Fern, an organization that works for the farmers, estimates that growers receive only about 6% of a chocolate slab’s fine price compared with 80% retained by manufacturers and retailers. Ivory Coast struggles to establish a floor price for cocoa produce. Farmers doubt that working conditions will improve as wages are very low. A minimum price for producers is important as multinational companies do not care for farmers and aim at maximizing profits.
The decision to forcibly evict any and all occupants of these protected forests (up to a million), as part of the law, is being criticised. An estimated 40% of Ivory Coast’s cocoa crops are cultivated illegally in various national parks and even in 230 protected and allegedly government-controlled forests, and NGOs have documented earlier brutal evictions of communities by the government. These forcible evictions created a huge humanitarian crisis for the indigenous communities, who has been deprived of education, healthcare, and security. Demand for chocolate drives deforestation in Ivory Coast which produces over 33% of the world’s cocoa. Around 90% of the country’s forests have already been destroyed since independence in 1960, driving species such as chimpanzees and forest elephants to extinction.
The Low Wages Poverty Syndrome
A report by Global Forest Watch confirms that Ivory Coast seen the second highest rate of deforestation in the world and the Cavally Forest is set to disappear completely by 2061, while the Goin Debe forests vanish by 2071, as per experts. It is said that 2 million children and more work in cocoa fields in West Africa, and slavery and trafficking is rampant. The law could improve accountability as today mafiosos working closely with logging companies, rule the roost! The chocolate companies are not responsible for anything, as they have a supply chain that they are not responsible for. The low wages encourage a form of modern slavery. The World Cocoa Foundation says the drivers of deforestation are complex and that the industry was working towards developing ‘full traceability’ of these farms to deal with illegal cocoa farming. The new forest laws do not promote leasing large land tracts to companies for commercial plantations. Its strategy promotes agro-forestry concessions that are based on smallholder cultivation and community-based natural resource management.