The farmers have been producing about 10 thousand tonnes of cocoa, with a net worth of over 28 million US dollars, according to the UN, a figure they say could be doubled.
The eviction is part of the country’s president Alassane Ouattara’s campaign to rid parks and reserves of illegal inhabitants to protect the dwindling forests and for the Mont Peko rain forest specifically – its fragility, as it houses dwarf elephants and chimpanzees, whose population has sporadically decreased.
“Since July 30, they have been banned from entering the park and it is strictly forbidden to harvest anything at all inside the park. That means if we catch them inside the park we will arrest them and charge them with trespassing,” said Kpolo Ouattara.
A survey conducted by scientists last year in 23 protected areas found that 13 had lost their entire primate populations, while five others had lost about half. Nearly three-quarters of the forests surveyed had been transformed into cocoa plantations.
Ivorian authorities have in the past said that they would offer resettlement packages to people living in protected lands but some farmers such as Vincent Bigoure said that they still did not know how much help they woumd get and thousands said they have nowhere to go.
“I can say the state has deceived us because they have been promising us things for three years now, And now as of last week, they changed everything. I think that the state knew we would be living like this, if they had warned us back in 2014, then maybe many of us would have left already. But they made us believe they were going to do something for us. And that is why people stayed here hoping to get something. It was at the last minute they told us they couldn’t deal with us.”
The government maintains that it warned the people through the regional commissioner and sent delegations several times for nearly four years.
Clearing Mont Peko is considered a pivotal step in the push to end illegal farming in Ivory Coast’s eight national parks, five nature reserves and 231 forest reserves. And so on July 30, the government ordered the farmers out of Mont Peko.