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Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Côte d'Ivoire cracks down on illegal wood bound for EU

In an attempt to fight the clearing out of forests due to illegal cocoa plantations, the government of Côte d'Ivoire has started evacuating cocoa farmers from protected forests-land, a move which stirs-up controversies over the breach of human rights. This comes only a couple of weeks after the EU has announced it would launch talks on a new trade agreement with Côte d'Ivoire to counteract the illegal logging. It is estimated that 75% of the former French colony’s forests have disappeared in the past 50 years, mainly due to farming including cocoa plantations  - which represents about 10% of the country’s economic output. “Côte d'Ivoire exports 80% of its forestry products to the EU and as one of the biggest global markets for timber, the EU is part of both the problem and the solution,” European Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said on 13 June in announcing the trade talks.
The new trade agreement – a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) – is a legally-binding agreement, designed to set up control and licencing systems to ensure that all timber imported to the EU from Côte d'Ivoire has been produced legally.
Côte d'Ivoire 's  government says it is prepared to pay the economic price of phasing agriculture out to save the dwindling tropical forest and the security services have started flattening houses and forcefully removing the farmers."In America, you couldn't imagine people illegally occupying Central Park just because they say they have nowhere else to live, could you?" said a government spokesman.
Yet, the evacuations from the around half the 4.2 million hectares of protected forest reserves have stirred unrest, and have given birth to worries over the lack of protection of human rights. There are reports over abuse of security forces of abuse, including the looting of homes, stealing money and cocoa and, in some cases, rape - charges rejected however by the government.

Source: EurActiv