The classified forest of Bossematié, near Abengourou in Côte d’Ivoire, is a rare natural heritage. “Here, we still have hundred-year-old trees, we really have biodiversity. There are elephants, there are all kinds of animals and trees living together, it’s a forest full of many, many, many, many animals and trees,” explains Koua Mea Lucien Patrick, Head of Forest Management, Regional Directorate of Indenie Djuablin, SODEFOR. “Côte d’Ivoire has lost more than half of its forests. Today, with global warming, we will have to redouble our efforts to protect the few forests we currently have. »
Deforestation is indeed a major issue in Côte d’Ivoire, a country that produces more than 40% of the world’s supply of cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate. According to Global Forest Watch, Côte d’Ivoire lost 26% of its primary rainforests between 2002 and 2020, with a significant portion of deforestation due to cocoa cultivation. To end deforestation and restore forest areas, the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana and 35 major cocoa and chocolate companies have partnered in the Cocoa & Forests Initiative since 2017. In Côte d’Ivoire, the government is taking action to restore its forest cover to 20% by 2030.
“We have an obligation to protect the classified forest of Bossematié because it brings very important biodiversity in the sub-region. It must be protected for the future, for our younger generations,” confirms Kouadio Elleby Joël, Head of Unit, Bossematié at SODEFOR. “[the forest] is much coveted by illegals. Ill-intentioned people who come to clear () want at all costs to sow and have a cocoa plantation in this forest. We also have hunters who come from elsewhere to shoot our elephants. () When I enter the classified forest and see clearing and incinerated natural species, it must be said that my heart aches, it shocks me. And really, I ask for support so we can save this forest. »
Indeed, protecting the forest is a difficult and dangerous mission: “Often, the agents who accompany us in our various missions are threatened in the forest. () Last August 10, we were attacked with a weapon using a twelve gauge. This did not prevent us from always carrying out our protection mission in this forest,” continues Kouadio Elleby Joël. To carry out the daily and night patrols, arrangements are necessary: “It takes lots and lots of resources, both human and financial and material. We need it to pay for small improvements: we need access roads to the different sites and human resources to be able to carry out this mission,” explains Koua Mea Lucien Patrick.
In addition to this surveillance, the agents carry out awareness-raising actions “to further involve the local populations in safeguarding this forest and also involve the customary and political authorities in this management of the forest,” continues the head of service. Another promising strategy for the future is the promotion of ecotourism, which “will consist of creating areas [to] allow tourists to better understand, to better visit the forest in different places. And I think it could help to get more involved in the management since, each time, we will see tourists. Thanks to ecotourism, we will be able to train guides, we will be able to give jobs to these populations who live around the forest and they will become more involved,” concludes the SODEFOR department head.