Land and Resources, Environmental Issues
migrant farmers, rate of deforestation, marine pollution, commodity prices, endangered species
Cote d’Ivoire once had the largest rain forests in West Africa, but timber harvesting and slash-and-burn farming practices have reduced the coverage of forests to 22.4 percent (2000) of the country’s area. In 1996 the government banned the export of logs from the country, but illegal timber harvesting continues.
Farmers have cleared vast sections of forest to plant coffee and cacao, which thrive in the rich soil of the rain forests. After Cote d’Ivoire was granted independence from France in 1960, an ambiguous land-ownership policy encouraged many farmers in the country to abandon unproductive land and clear additional forest. Tens of thousands of seedlings have been planted since the 1960s, but the rate of deforestation has exceeded replanting efforts.
Cote d’Ivoire’s economic dependence on agriculture has led to the exploitation of the country’s natural resources in times of economic hardship. During the 1980s, when commodity prices for cacao and coffee collapsed worldwide, Cote d’Ivoire increased exports of wood products to make up for decreased agricultural revenue.
Although 6.2 percent (1997) of the country’s area is officially protected in national parks and reserves, migrant farmers continue to clear forest and plant crops in protected areas. Cote d’Ivoire has banned hunting since 1973, but poaching threatens the country’s wildlife.
Cote d’Ivoire has ratified international agreements intended to protect biodiversity, endangered species, tropical forests, wetlands, and the ozone layer. It has also signed treaties that limit marine pollution and hazardous wastes.
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