Positive developments on policy and in the field for forest protection in Côte d’Ivoire

Côte d’Ivoire’s once dense primary forest has now become a mosaic of secondary forests, cash crop plantations, food crops and fallow land. According to the BNETD, forest cover represents 11% of the national territory with a deforestation rate of 2.69% between 2000 and 2015, or about 100,000 hectares of forest loss per year. Forests play an essential role in combating climate change, regulating local and regional climate and providing other ecosystem services that support agricultural sector resilience and people livelihoods.

The Ivorian government therefore takes the issue of deforestation seriously and has set itself the very ambitious objective of restoring forest cover to 20% of the national territory. In 2018, it developed a new National Policy for the Preservation, Rehabilitation and Extension of Forests, which specifies the main lines adopted by the government to manage its forest reserves, through involvement of the population and the private sector. The resulting strategy was presented to stakeholders at a dedicated meeting in Abidjan on 28 February. The strategy will then be presented by the Minister of Water and Forests, Mr Alain Richard Donwahi, to the Government in the Council of Ministers for adoption.

In addition, Côte d’Ivoire also committed to preserving and restoring forests through the signature in November 2017 of the Cocoa & Forests Initiative’s Joint Framework for Action, aiming to end deforestation from the cocoa supply chain. In addition, the government has also drafted a bill on the Forest Code, which will establish the principles of a new strategy for managing its forest reserves. This bill was adopted by the Government at the Council of Ministers on 30 January 2019 and will be submitted to the National Assembly for adoption at its next session, which opens in April 2019, before its promulgation by the President of the Republic.

The National Policy for the Preservation, Rehabilitation and Extension of Forests and the new Forest Code create an environment conducive to the implementation of the Cocoa & Forests Initiative. They address some issues that have hitherto been major constraints for the preservation, rehabilitation and extension of forests, including (i) tree tenure (agroforestry activities), (ii) differential forest management (categorization of forests classified according to their level of degradation), and (iii) involvement of the private sector in the forest reserve management activities.

In parallel to this political process, concrete actions have started on the ground to reduce deforestation. A special intervention and surveillance brigade (BSSI), composed of officers trained by the Ivorian army’s special forces, was created in February 2019. Its action covers intelligence (including information gathering) and intervention. Its officers were trained by the Ivorian Army’s special forces. Its activities include reconnaissance, intelligence, control in wood depots, patrols in the regions, verification of information in targeted industrial units, and support at forest posts. To date, interventions have taken place in Abidjan, Yamoussoukro, Bouaké, Ferké, Korhogo, Bouaflé, Gagnoa, Séguéla and Odienné, and have focused on the arrest of illegal loggers, the interception of trucks transporting illegal timber, the recovery and destruction of logging machines in the forests. In the long term, the BSSI will have 300 intervention agents and drones to increase its intervention and surveillance capacities.

Regarding mapping, a new tool for satellite maps and forest monitoring has been made available to the Ministry of Water and Forests. This tool, developed by VividEconomics (IMAGE) in collaboration with the Ministry of  Planning and Development for the south-western part of Côte d’Ivoire as a pilot project, collects information on the state of forests, and provides information to the BSSI and other stakeholders to target their interventions in that area.