Survival at stake

Published: Friday 15 November 2002

The 'farmers versus forest staff' face-off in Ivory Coast is turning ugly. Recently, a group of farmers wield-ing machetes gathered at Marahoue National Park and protested the government move to enforce no-farming laws inside the protected area.

It is alleged that the Marahoue forest cover has been denuded by villagers encroaching on the park for agriculture. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (fao), Ivory Coast's rate of deforestation is among the highest in Africa.

"You can teach people about deforestation, but if they are hungry they'll be guided by their survival instincts," argued Jean Not, a West Africa-based environmental specialist. The poor farmers' existence depends on their farms of cocoa, coffee and other crops planted within the park's borders.

Some time back, villagers living around the Abokouamekro Wildlife Reserve forced its closure. They were angry because the reserve's land was made off-limits to them.

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