"Restore, raise awareness and monitor". This is the meaning of the Divo Botanical Reserve Restoration Project officially launched by the Ivorian government. The initiative, supported by several partners, will eventually contribute to the reconstitution of Ivory Coast's forest cover.
While 65% of its natural heritage has been razed in recent years, the Lôh-Djiboua region in Ivory Coast could regain its former splendour. This is thanks in particular to the Divo Botanical Reserve Restoration Project recently launched by the Ivorian authorities. The initiative, which aims to plant 174,000 trees on 350 hectares of forest by April 2023, is supported by the Ivorian branch of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and the Abidjan-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) Génie Bio.
According to the Ivorian Minister of Water and Forests, who is piloting the project, this site covering 6,800 hectares is endangered by human action. “The strategy for the success of the project is not to chase away the infiltrated populations from the cocoa plantations and other crops they have grown in the reserve. In order to preserve peace and social cohesion, the government has favoured maintaining the plantations to encourage the planters to practice agroforestry with local plants that will help restore the forest,” explains Minister Laurent Tchagba.
According to Icraf’s country director in Ivory Coast, the restoration of the Divo botanical reserve will also allow for the development of a land-use map to determine the target areas to be replanted, a monitoring and evaluation of the plants, as well as “raising the awareness of local populations to the dangers of deforestation, particularly the lack of water in ten years’ time if the degradation of the forest cover in Côte d’Ivoire continues at this rate”, says Christophe Kouamé.
Earlier in September 2022, BGFI Bank Ivory Coast initiated a reforestation operation in the town of Divo in partnership with local authorities. As part of its eco-responsible approach, the financial group mobilised civil society for the planting of 300 feet of Terminalia mentale (a tree with 20-metre high trunks used as an ornament in gardens and parks, editor’s note) in the localities of Duibo and Kpato.
As a reminder, the national forest cover is estimated at only 9.2% in Ivory Coast, or 3.4 million hectares in 2022, compared to 16 million in 1960. This massive deforestation is partly caused by bushfires started by farmers to grow cocoa. Among the most affected areas is the Aries region, where the Ivorian government recently launched a reforestation and biodiversity protection awareness campaign in the department of Tiébissou, 389 km from Abidjan.