Cote d'Ivoire Evicts Farmers from Protected Lands After Paris Summit
Residents of Côte d'Ivoire's protected forests live in fear of arbitrary evictions and have suffered extortion and physical abuse by forest conservation authorities, Human Rights Watch and the Ivorian Coalition of Human Rights Actors (Rassemblement des Acteurs Ivoriens des Droits Humains, RAIDH) said today. The Ivorian government should halt all forced evictions, investigate and prosecute abuses, and introduce legislation that provides farmers with the protections required by international law.
The Forestry Development Agency (Société de Développement des Forêts, SODEFOR), a state agency under the Water and Forests Ministry, regularly evicts farmers without warning, often burning their homes and possessions in the process. Farmers are also frequently beaten and humiliated during eviction operations.
"Families are being violently evicted from the land on which they have lived and worked for years, and are seeing everything they own destroyed in an instant," said Jim Wormington, West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. "The lack of oversight of SODEFOR's operations has left these communities vulnerable to abuse."
Côte d'Ivoire's 231 protected forests (forêts classées), state land set aside for conservation, have been devastated by deforestation, with more than half of the country's four million hectares of protected forest cut down for farmland. As part of its efforts to combat climate change, announced prior to the December 2015 Paris climate summit, the Ivorian government in September restated its intention to restore protected forests as part of a broader commitment to return at least 20 percent of its territory to forest.