Chocolate

Ivorian Ministry of Forest Pledges Progress on Joint Monitoring Program

In November 2017, the cocoa industry and the Government of Côte d'Ivoire pledged to halt deforestation caused by cocoa and "adopt a transparent satellite monitoring system whose results are independently validated and which provides an early warning of deforestation, quickly supplemented by field verification. This system [was] to be made available to the public immediately after the signing of the Common Framework for Action (CFA) so that all stakeholders can measure and monitor progress towards the overall deforestation target". Three years later, this has still not been achieved. 
 
It is in that context that Mighty Earth welcomes with great satisfaction the Ivorian Minister of Water and Forests' announcement, seconded by the President of the World Cocoa Foundation, of the rapid implementation of the long promised joint monitoring of deforestation and remedial measures. This announcement was made on February 25 during the last Cocoa and Forests Initiative (CFI) steering committee in which the two senior officials took part, along with 66 other participants. Joint monitoring is one of the CFI’s major commitments, and Mighty Earth has constantly called for its effective implementation. The launch of the Cocoa Accountability Map in 2020, recently updated in February 2021, is precisely an attempt to remedy this shortcoming.

Standing up for forests and farmers

Mighty Earth applauds the government of Cote d’Ivoire for seeking to better protect its forests and for its willingness to move towards a greener future, putting behind the bitter past of losing 85 percent of its forests since 1990. Likewise, we welcome positive elements in the new Ivorian forest code, recently adopted by the Ivorian National Assembly.

However—we are gravely concerned by the implications of mass evictions from parks and protected areas.  Incentivized by decades of the $100-billion-a-year chocolate industry turning a bind eye to forest destruction and funding illegal cocoa production in these areas, 1.5 - 2 million people thought to be living illegally in the parks and protected areas of Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana

In its declaration, the Ministre des Eaux et Forêts was clear that protected areas will be emptied of their inhabitants.

We call urgently for the recognition and respect of the human rights of these  inhabitants. These people have rights and must be protected from abuses.

Published below is our recent Joint Human Rights Watch-Mighty Earth Cote d'Ivoire Dispatch regarding the urgent need to guarantee the human rights of illegal cocoa farmers. Also below is  a 2018 open letter, co-signed by Mighty Earth, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Le Regroupement des Acteurs Ivoiriens des Droits de l'Homme(RAIDH), and Fern, regarding egregious abuses of illegal cocoa farmers inside the Ivorian national park of Marahoue.

This previously unpublished letter presents the findings of a joint investigation to the government of Cote d’Ivoire.  Following unsuccessful negotiations with the government, led by senior environmental advisor to the president, Dr. Mamadou Fofana, authorities declared that the government of Cote d’Ivoire would refuse to hold any perpetrators accountable or to compensate victims in any way. Given the risks that farmers now face, the Marahoue case has renewed relevance, and so we publish it today, along with videos and photos taken during the Marahoue field investigation.

We call on the Ivorian authorities to protect human rights and allow independent civil society monitors to observe any actions taken. In parallel, we call upon the chocolate industry to create a humanitarian aid fund to compensate farmers who are expelled from parks and protected areas. Having created the conditions leading to the illegal occupations of these areas the industry has a moral responsibility to finance solutions, and assist expelled farmers in rebuilding their lives.


Farmers Face New Round of Eviction from Protected Forests in Côte d’Ivoire

Government Should Ensure Small-Scale Farmers Receive Adequate Notice, Compensation

Jim Wormington, Researcher, Human Rights Watch
Etelle Higonnet, Campaign and Legal Director, Mighty Earth

Côte d’Ivoire, fighting widespread and rapidly advancing deforestation, is embarking on an ambitious plan to reclaim and rehabilitate its forests. As it moves to protect a key national resource, the government needs to be careful not to trample of the rights of the thousands of small-scale farmers now facing eviction.

Côte d’Ivoire has seen its forest decline from 50 percent of its territory in 1900 to less than 12 percent in 2015. Much of the deforestation has been driven by Côte d’Ivoire’s cocoa industry – the world’s biggest – with the government estimating between 30 and 40 percent of cocoa comes from protected forests. Most cocoa is produced by small-scale farmers who receive only a fraction of the profits from crop sales.

In June 2018, Côte d’Ivoire published a new forestry policy that would convert most of its decimated protected forests to Agro-Forests, with multinational companies – mostly from the lucrative global chocolate industry – responsible for developing sustainable agroforestry cocoa farming methods. For the remaining forests, the Ministry for Water and Forests proposes to strictly enforce long-neglected laws banning farming and occupying protected forests and national parks.

The implementation of the new forestry policy will likely result in the evictions of thousands of small-scale cocoa farmers, with an estimated 1.5 to 2 million cocoa farmers living in protected forests and national parks in Côte d’Ivoire and neighboring Ghana. The Ivorian protected forest of Scio, for example, where thousands of people live, reportedly received notice of an eviction operation planned for July.

Although the Ivorian government has the right to reclaim forests intended for conservation, international law protects anyone who occupies land from forced evictions that do not respect the dignity and rights of those affected, regardless of where they are living.

Past eviction operations in Côte d’Ivoire have left farmers’ families without adequate shelter, food, and education, and we have documented extortion, corruption, and physical abuses committed by government agents conducting evictions. In an October 2017 letter on the creation of Agro-Forests, we also warned that large agricultural companies often fail to protect the rights of small-scale farmers, especially when national regulations are unclear or not enforced.

The Ivorian government is right to want to protect and rehabilitate forests. But it should ensure that evictions are only used as a last resort and farmers receive adequate notice, compensation for property and crops, and assistance finding new land or obtaining new livelihoods. Measures to protect the environment, such as the protection of protected forests, should be implemented while respecting the rights of those who live in the area.

This piece is crossposted from Human Rights Watch


More photos and videos.

Read Marahoue letter in French here.

Read Marahoue letter in English here.


Return to Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana - Second Field Investigation and Satellite

 From the field: Ongoing Deforestation in Cote D’Ivoire

Mighty Earth returned to Côte d’Ivoire to see what’s happened on the ground, since the chocolate industry and government promises made at the November 2017 COP in Bonn — to go deforestation-free


One year ago, the world’s largest chocolate and cocoa companies stood beside representatives of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, the two major cocoa-producing countries, and committed to transform their industry. They said they would end deforestation linked to the production of cocoa and protect human rights better. Mighty Earth monitored these promises all year. We conducted analysis of remote sensing data of forests in the cocoa-growing regions of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. In October 2018, Mighty Earth sent a field team to check things out on the ground in Côte d’Ivoire. Did the reality live up to the promises?


This is what we found.

In the Goin Debé classified forest, deforestation for cocoa was continuing, and the local cocoa farmers reported that families were exchanging land to make room for more cocoa. One forest had been cleared and planted with cocoa just two days before our team arrived – in the protected area we had investigated less than a year prior.

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In the Cavally Forest Reserve, the team headed into a dense intact forest, their path cleared by the machete swings of SODEFOR rangers. After 30 minutes, the forest cover began to thin and cocoa trees appeared. Some were one year old or less, indicating that they had likely been planted after the Frameworks of the Cocoa and Forest Initiative were announced in November 2017 at the Bonn COP.


 

 

Some protected areas are on the verge of extinction in the next 10 years, if the deforestation rates of the last year continue. These forests are mostly in the Southwest of the Côte d’Ivoire, in the cocoa producing heartland. Goin Debé is projected to vanish in around fifty years, if we continue with business as usual. Moyen Cavally the same.


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Full-sun cocoa prevents the growth of other species, and creates a biodiversity wasteland – a food desert for birds, bats, bees, and other living things. In contrast, densely shaded agroforestry retains important benefits of a natural forest.


While top chocolate companies and their executives and investors make sizable profits in this industry worth $100 billion a year, they pay very low wages and rely on extensive child labor. Our team found child labour in the field.


Some Ivorian forests we studied saw improvements, with deforestation rates going down. The top performers included the forest authorities protecting Tai, Nzo, Semien, Fransobi, Port Gauthier, Rapides Grah, Dassioko Sud and Nord, with Haute Dono and Bolo Ouest seeing the strongest positive changes of any area.

Unfortunately, other Ivorian forests saw things actually get worse, not better. Despite the promises made by industry and government, as this photo essay demonstrates in Goin Debe and Cavaly, the deforestation rates rose. Other poor-performing protected areas were Mont Kourabahi and Niouniourou Bloc Deux. But Cavaly Mont Sante (similar name but different protected area) stood out far and away as the worst of all. Tragically, even the national park designation was not enough to save Mont Peko, where deforestation rates rose as well.


Farmers hack down the smaller trees with machetes, but the oldest are too large to chop. They are burned instead; like this ancient giant we walked past, whose base has been charred by an illegal fire.


The Ivorian and Ghanaian governments have clearly failed to clamp down on this ongoing deforestation, and companies, despite their public commitments, have continued to buy cocoa from suppliers connected to deforestation. While companies and local authorities have taken some actions to limit deforestation, and some areas saw improvements, we nonetheless documented that farmers who engaged in deforestation for cocoa were still able to openly sell their cocoa without repercussions.


Deforestation in Ghana from 2001-2017. Red dots represent forest loss.

Deforestation in Ghana from November 2017-2018.

To assess the impact of the Cocoa and Forests Initiative, we conducted analysis of remote sensing data across national parks and other protected areas in the cocoa-growing region in Ghana too.

This shows new tree cover loss in Ghana’s cocoa region in 2018. Ghana made tremendous progress this past year in mobilizing to end deforestation for cocoa, but they have a long way to go. Most of their forests are already gone. And satellite mapping shows that deforestation for cocoa is still continuing.


 

A year ago, we were all filled with hope when Prince Charles, Initiatief Duurzame Handel, and the World Cocoa Foundation helped industry and governments pledge to do better. Clearly key actors are failing and have not kept their promises. However, there is still room for optimism. Some authorities and companies have already gotten on the right track, proving that solutions are within are grasp. We can all do better. It’s not too late.


The future is in all of our hands.

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