The world's leading cocoa-producing country has lost almost all its forests. In the east of the country, illegal production is colonizing protected areas, while in the west, monoculture is running out of steam.
Abengourou and Duékoué regions (Côte d'Ivoire) — A farmer on a moped sets out to scout. In the event of an ambush or major traffic problems on the track, he should be able to slip by. Two pickups follow, carrying around 20 men of various ages, most of them sitting in the skips.
Several times, dead trees block their path, the main road through the Bossématié forest in eastern Côte d'Ivoire. A villager clears a path with a chainsaw. He is escorted by seven armed agents from the Office Ivoirien des Parcs et Réserves (OIPR). In theory, no one is allowed to enter the area since it was declared a nature reserve in March 2022, apart from the OIPR rangers responsible for its protection. On this particular day, they are accompanied by local residents of the lush rainforest for a raid.
Their trained eyes spot a narrow passage, roughly cleared of undergrowth, among the trees and creepers. They all make their way through, walking in single file. After about 20 meters, the undergrowth is clear. The earth has been disturbed. If you put your hands in, you'll discover many cocoa beans planted just a few centimeters below the surface. Dozens of young cocoa trees are replacing the forest. One by one, villagers chop down the soft wood with machetes. The aim is to discourage what they call "infiltrators," farmers who take advantage of the fertility of the nature reserve to plant cocoa trees there illegally.
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