World's top cocoa producers fight to protect forests

MONT PEKO NATIONAL PARK, Ivory Coast — Park rangers in the world's top cocoa producer, Ivory Coast, are waging a campaign to protect national forests from the illegal farming of the raw ingredient in chocolate.

Last year the governments of Ivory Coast and other top cocoa producer Ghana, along with food giants Nestle, Mars and Hershey, pledged to work together to end deforestation in the West African nations.

The president of the World Cocoa Foundation, Rick Scobey, called it a landmark decision and an "important environmental achievement."

Last year an investigation by environmental group Mighty Earth found that many of Ivory Coast's national parks and protected areas "have been entirely or almost entirely cleared of forest and replaced with cocoa-growing operations." One of them, Mont Peko National Park, is home to endangered species such as chimpanzees and pygmy hippopotamuses.

Chocolate producers should "really give customers peace of mind that chocolate eating isn't contributing to killing chimps or elephants," said Etelle Higonnet, a campaign director for Mighty Earth. "Let's have total transparency all the way from the bar in your hand or the Nesquik that you drink or the Nutella that you spread on your bread, down to the farm."

On a recent patrol in Mont Peko National Park, it didn't take long for park rangers to find cocoa growing illegally. Using machetes, the team set to work removing it.

There has been limited progress, said Kpolo Ouattara, head of the Mont Peko sector for the Ivorian Office of Parks and Reserves. "Roughly, more than 800 hectares (1,975 acres) of cocoa has been cut. Compared to the park's total area of 34,000 hectares, that's very little."

While mindful of tensions that have lingered in the wake of the country's deadly political violence in recent years, Ivory Coast has turned to security forces to evict thousands of illegal cocoa farmers from parks.

However, authorities say some have been sneaking back in to harvest trees hidden deep in the forest.

One farmer, Djaka Issa Ouatara, said he accepts the government's actions.

"We weren't surprised because when we entered that area, we were well aware that (the forest) was part of the national heritage," Ouatara said.

Still, some observers worry that local traders are willing to turn a blind eye to any illegal provenance of cocoa headed for the global chocolate market.

Scobey with the World Cocoa Foundation recommended that chocolate lovers choose brands that advertise their adherence to international standards and check brand websites for information about their commitments to environmental and human rights concerns.

"We can't indulge in a feel-good luxury product at the expense of a huge swath of tropical rainforest," Higonnet with Mighty Earth said.

Related News

Slain runner from NYC laid to rest in Massachusetts

Aug 16, 2016

A New York City woman killed while out running near her mother's Massachusetts home was remembered at her funeral Tuesday for the light she brought to the lives of everyone she touched

'American Horror Story' coming to Halloween Horror Nights

Aug 17, 2016

The ghosts, vampires and other freaky misfits from "American Horror Story" are coming to Universal Studios

Casino mogul Wynn readies lavish new Macau resort

Aug 17, 2016

Steve Wynn's Macau resort brims with auspicious Chinese symbolism, and the U.S. casino mogul will need luck on his side as launches his $4.2 billion Wynn Palace project in the gambling hub as growth downshifts

You may also like these

No oil leaks into Lake Tahoe from boat fire, officials say

Aug 17, 2016

The U.S. Coast Guard says firefighters protected Lake Tahoe's famously clear water as they quickly snuffed out flames shooting out of a docked tourist cruise boat

Most limits on US-Mexico flights are about to be lifted

Aug 20, 2016

Delta, American and Southwest move quickly to add flights as US and Mexico ease restrictions

After Rio, Olympics headed for Asian venues seen as safe

Aug 22, 2016

The next three Olympics are headed for relatively calmer ports of call in Asia following the drama in Russia and Brazil, but challenges remain, especially when it comes to finances and generating enthusiasm at home

Traveller SEA (South-East Asia) is for wanderlust looking for an adventure in the South-East Asia region and the rest of the world.

Contact us: sales@tvlseacom.com