Côte d'Ivoire is a very biodiverse country [1]. According to the country’s Sixth National Report on Biological Diversity (2018), the terrestrial and aquatic biological diversity (all organisms, plants, and animals) of Côte d'Ivoire comprises 16,815 species overall (12,126 terrestrial and 4,689 aquatic species). This includes 3,927 species of terrestrial plants, 114 species of amphibian, 737 birds, 134 reptiles, 244 mammals and 504 species of fish [2]. Much of this biological diversity is concentrated in the country’s national parks and reserves [3].

The country's unique flora and fauna provide valuable ecosystem services to local communities [4]. The benefits people derive from biodiversity are varied and include supply services (consumer goods, production of medicinal products, etc.), socio-cultural services, and regulation services, among others. In Côte d'Ivoire, forests, wetlands, aquatic environments, and coastal marine waters are particularly important for the well-being of women, local communities, and poor and vulnerable populations, because of the services they provide. For instance, Côte d'Ivoire’s wetlands provide populations, particularly women, with medicinal plants and fuelwood [2]. At the same time, wetlands are vital for the conservation of many endangered animal species and are home to many emblematic species, including forest elephants, chimpanzees, pygmy hippopotamus, crocodiles, and manatees. Additionally, they are also an important nesting area for 5 species of turtles (green, hawksbill, olive ridley, leatherback and sea turtle) and constitute a breeding, resting, or feeding site for many bird species [5].

The country’s forests are home to exceptional biological wealth [1]. However, forests in Côte d’Ivoire have experienced severe degradation in recent decades [6]. According to the National Forest and Wildlife Inventory (IFFN), Côte d’Ivoire has lost approximately 5 million ha of forest cover between 1990 and 2020. Forest cover has decreased from 7.9 million hectares in 1990 to 2.97 million hectares in 2020, or less than 9% of the national territory, against nearly 50% in 1960. This excessive exploitation of vegetation leads to a significant reduction in biodiversity [5]. In Côte d’Ivoire, the decline in forest cover is largely due to the expansion of cash crops in the country, notably cocoa, but also rubber, coffee, cashew, and palm oil plantations [6]. Accounting for about 15% of GDP and 40% of export revenues, cocoa brings prosperity to Côte d’Ivoire. However, this commodity is degrading the country’s natural wealth [7].  

Côte d’Ivoire’s natural capital is in decline. The World Bank’s the Changing Wealth of Nations 2018 valued the country’s natural capital at $11,016 per capita for 2014, which corresponds to 45% of the country’s total wealth per capita ($24,485). This is within the average range for low-income countries but around 22% higher than in middle income countries, which have higher shares of produced and human capital. Côte d’Ivoire’s major natural assets are cropland ($4,545 per capita), pastureland ($3,011), protected areas ($1,661), and timber ($1,006). The methodology used by the World Bank is not exhaustive, as it does not include resources such as water and wildlife and uses only approximate prices. However, it can capture trends. According to the report, between 1990 and 2014, Côte d’Ivoire’s natural capital declined by more than 26% [8].

The country has also seen a decline in the number of species, linked to overexploitation and the degradation of habitats. According to the Sixth National Report on Biological Diversity, in Côte d'Ivoire, the percentage of threatened species is as follows: 15% of amphibian and batrachian species, 19% of birds, 9% of mammals, 2.2% insects, and 7.3% of higher plants [2]. Critically endangered species in Côte d'Ivoire include the hard-necked crocodile, panther, Diana monkey, magistrate colobus and chimpanzee [5]. Further, since the adoption of the 2011-2020 Strategic Plan for Biological Diversity, a species of primate Piliocolobus waldroni has been declared extinct in the wild since 2011 [2].


Côte d'Ivoire is a priority conservation area in West Africa thanks to the diversity of its flora and fauna. However, this biological diversity is strongly threatened by many factors, the most important of which are deforestation, shifting and unsustainable agriculture, overexploitation (e.g., poaching, overfishing), pollution, and climate change [3].

Côte d’Ivoire has one of the world’s highest rates of deforestation, caused largely by the rapid development of the country’s agricultural sector, particularly by slash-and-burn agriculture for cocoa farming. Cocoa is the main driver of deforestation in the country, particularly in the southwest, where most of Côte d’Ivoire’s remaining forests are located and where farming accounts for 80% of deforestation. Cocoa plantations have even encroached on protected forests [8].

These threats, which considerably affect both ecosystems and the living organisms they shelter, have a decisive effect on the economy and the quality of human life [3].


Key policies and governance approach

Côte d'Ivoire is a party to several biodiversity-related multilateral agreements [9]. Beyond its international involvement, the country has also set up a legislative framework to allow for the conservation and sustainable use of its natural resources [10]. This includes Law No. 2002-102 of February 11, 2002 relating to the creation, management and financing of national parks and nature reserves [9]; Law No. 2016-554 of July 26, 2016 relating to fishing and aquaculture; Law No. 2017-378 of June 2, 2017 relating to the development, protection and integrated management of the coast; and the new Forest Code promulgated on July 23, 2019, among others [5].

In addition, Côte d'Ivoire has been implementing its National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) over the period 2016-2020 [5], with the following vision "By 2025, the biological diversity of Côte d'Ivoire will be managed in a sustainable manner with a view to balancing the ecosystems, improving the quality of life of the current populations and preserving the legacy of future generations, taking into account the sub-regional dynamics and the regional and global dimensions”. From this vision, 6 strategic orientations were derived, broken down into 21 objectives to be achieved by 2020. The 6 strategic orientations are as follows: (i) safeguarding natural environments, their functions and services; (ii) the preservation of specific and genetic diversities; (iii) strengthening conservation structures; (iv) enhancement and sustainable use of biological diversity; (v) citizen mobilization and the dissemination of knowledge about the living; and (vi) strengthening national coordination and international cooperation [9].

There are also several other biodiversity-related policies, strategies and plans in Côte d'Ivoire, which include the Policy for the Preservation, Rehabilitation and Extension of Forests (2018); the National REDD+ Strategy (2017); the National Strategy for Cocoa Farming (2022); the National Natural Resources Management Strategy (2016-2020); the National Coastal Environment Management Strategy in Côte d'Ivoire and Action Plan (2016-2020); and the National Strategy to Combat Desertification and Land Degradation, to name a few [2], [5]. Further, the preservation of biodiversity has also been strengthened in the country’s national planning. The National Development Plan (PND) 2021-2025 is structured around 6 pillars, including Pillar 5: Balanced regional development, preservation of the environment and the fight against climate change. This program supports the protection of the environment, the safeguarding of natural heritage and the ecological exploitation of natural resources, with a view to respecting nature, the fight against global warming and sustainable development [5].

Successes and remaining challenges

The evolution of the Red List Index (RLI) shows that Côte d'Ivoire has successfully protected its biodiversity over time, with an index above 0.90. However, the country experienced a slight decline in the index between 2019 and 2020, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This was due to a decline in the protection of species due to confinement, the absence or regularity of patrols, the reduction of budgets allocated to environmental protection, etc. [5].

Nevertheless, Côte d'Ivoire still faces challenges in the implementation of its biodiversity policy and legislation. For instance, several institutions are closely involved in the design and implementation of biodiversity policy in the country [2],  which can cause overlapping and conflicting jurisdictions and confusion over mandates and responsibilities [9]. For protected areas, three institutions are particularly active with regards to management, policy development and financing. But the institutional framework dedicated to safeguarding ecosystems, habitats and species outside parks and reserves is fragmented, or even absent in some cases, which substantially limits the effectiveness of policy implementation. Additionally, there are also challenges related to human resources and logistical means [2].

Furthermore, the implementation of various biodiversity-related multilateral agreements is hampered by a lack of synergy of actions between the focal points. Thus, even the national reports that are useful for evaluating the implementation of these agreements, which are supposed to enrich each other with convergent and complementary information, suffer from a lack of fluidity between the focal points. It is, therefore, necessary to improve the country’s legal and institutional frameworks for protecting biodiversity by revising and improving existing texts, as well as optimizing the synergies of action between the stakeholders [2].

Another challenge in Côte d'Ivoire is related to the country’s limited knowledge of biological diversity and the functioning of ecosystems. Despite decades of research, there have been few initiatives undertaken in the country to address the drivers of biodiversity loss, and national and local political decision-makers do not sufficiently make the link between the proper functioning of ecosystems and the maintenance of economic activity and the well-being of populations. This also explains the propensity to adopt minimalist policies in favor of biological diversity. To reverse the trend, it is important to increase knowledge of the value of biological diversity, to ensure that it is considered in subsequent decisions and activities [2].

Despite limited knowledge, Côte d'Ivoire recognises that current rates of biodiversity loss are higher than ever, and that their ecosystems are under considerable pressure. As such, a precautionary approach must be adopted urgently for the management and sustainable use of the country’s natural resources. However, scientific research is the backbone of any ambitious policy for biological diversity. Deepening the understanding of biodiversity and ecosystem services is crucial if the country is to refine and improve their policy responses in the future [2].

Initiatives and Development Plans

UNESCO and UNDP have been working jointly with the Government of Côte d'Ivoire to help rural communities to protect their forests, preserve the botanical riches they hold, promote the cultural heritage they represent amongst the youth, and prevent intercommunity confrontations. As part of this project, an inventory and mapping of existing plant species and functionalities has been carried out in 5 localities:  Gbombelo, Dio, Gboné, Gandi and Biankouma. UNESCO and UNDP have also helped to restore several of the country’s sacred forests. Additionally, a key priority of this project was ensuring that traditional knowledge and know-how was passed down through the generations and thus, 50 young women were trained in forest conservation techniques and taught how to use medicinal plants by a group of 25 older women who practice traditional medicine. Cooking kits were also distributed to the young beneficiaries so that they can engage in income-generating activities [1].

Recognizing the importance of social cohesion between communities across the county, UNESCO partnered with UNDP (with support from the UN Peacebuilding Fund) from 2020 and 2021 to train hundreds of young people and community leaders, including women, in how to prevent and manage generational and identity conflict arising from the desecration and exploitation of sacred forests. The project thus established local peace committees, set up various forums for intercommunity dialogue to combat stereotypes and mistrust and to advocate for peaceful coexistence, organized social sports-related cohesion activities, and held several artistic and cultural events [1].

Further, the project supported more than 500 young people, including 98 women, to start their own businesses in agroforestry and as well as in traditional fritter trade. 25 young people were also trained to become tour guides, to help drive local tourism and cultural development. To incentivize people away from forest logging, the project also launched livestock, beekeeping and gardening intercommunity cooperation initiatives and constructed multifunctional mills, primary schools, youth centers and spaces dedicated to preventing and resolving conflicts to serve communities across the county. Alongside this initiative, the UN is leading projects in Côte d'Ivoire with a focus on promoting agroforestry, which not only helps to restore local biodiversity, but also increases agricultural productivity, thereby reducing the conversion of forests into farmland [1].

Bingerville, a town outside the country’s financial capital Abidjan, lies alongside the Ebrié Lagoon, a 130 km stretch of water separated from the ocean by a strip of coastline. For years, the town’s adjacent forests have been depleted by use of mangroves as fuel for the cooking of local staple dish attièké (cassava semolina) and for the processing of palm wine. However, conditions in Bingerville have started to improve following the launch of the GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP) project ‘Restoration of biodiversity and development of the Coastal Wetlands of Bingerville’, which has worked to restore and protect the vital vegetation that provides a buffer against the storms and rising seas associated with climate change. This work has had widespread and noticeable effects on the area, including the return of animals such as monitor lizards and crocodiles. The community is now exploring possibilities to develop eco-tourism centered around the restored mangroves as a way to sustain these positive impacts and generate local revenue, said Alimata Koné Bakayoko, Côte d'Ivoire’s Operational Focal Point to the GEF [11].

  • It is necessary to improve the country’s legal and institutional frameworks for protecting biodiversity by revising and improving existing texts, as well as optimizing the synergies of action between the stakeholders [2].
  • Environmental concerns— including deforestation and biodiversity loss—need to be better incorporated into the activities of other ministries [8].
  • Scientific research is the backbone of any ambitious policy for biological diversity. Deepening the country’s understanding of biodiversity and ecosystem services is crucial to refine and improve policy responses in the future [2].
  • It is important to increase knowledge of the value of biological diversity, to ensure that it is considered in subsequent decisions and activities [2].
  • It is essential to include gender considerations in National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) to increase the role of women in biodiversity conservation and protection efforts [5].
  • Equal access to land rights could also have positive effects on forest restoration and sustainable ecosystem management [5].
  • Undertake actions to conserve and restore essential habitats such as natural forests, wetlands, and mangroves [12].
  • To reduce deforestation and stabilize forest cover, the government should continue to implement its existing forest strategies and policies, and build on the lessons learned under the REDD+ process [8].
  • Achieving zero-deforestation agriculture will be key. But this will require establishing standards for sustainable cocoa production, which will then limit deforestation and protect the incomes of the people working in the cocoa value chain. Such standards could also boost international private investment in the cocoa sector by allowing companies to honour their corporate commitments to purchase deforestation-free cocoa [8].
  • Agroforestry could significantly contribute to restoring the Ivorian forest cover [1]. The conditions and incentives for cocoa farmers to adopt agroforestry practices need to be improved for large scale implementation programmes to be successful [6].
  • Concrete activities could also include developing and implementing forest management plans and reforestation initiatives with community participation, introducing or improving sustainable forest management techniques, and introducing systems of payment for ecosystem services to incentivize local communities to engage in forest conservation [8].
  • Raise awareness, train, and educate local populations in the sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystems [12].
  • Develop income-generating green economy activities among young people and women [12].

[1] United Nations Sustainable Development Group (2022). Protecting sacred forests in Côte d'Ivoire, for people and planet. [Online]. Available:

[2] MINISTERE DE L’ENVIRONNEMENT ET DU DEVELOPPEMENT DURABLE (2018). 6 ème Rapport National sur la Diversité Biologique.

[3] Ministère de la Salubrité, de l'Environnement et du Développement Durable (2018). Premier Rapport Biennal Actualisé de la Côte d’Ivoire.

[4] DGB GROUP N.V. ("DGB") (2023). Ivory Coast's biodiversity: A rich and diverse ecosystem. [Online]. Available:


[6] Critchley, M., Sassen, M. and Umunay, P. (2021). Mapping opportunities for cocoa agroforestry in Côte d’Ivoire: Assessing its potential to contribute to national forest cover restoration targets and ecosystem services co-benefits. UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre. Cambridge UK.

[7] United Nations Environment Programme - Finance Initiative (2018). Blog: A path to sustainable cocoa and forest restoration in Côte d’Ivoire. [Online]. Available:

[8] World Bank. 2021. République de Côte d’Ivoire 2021-2030 - Sustaining High, Inclusive, and Resilient Growth Post COVID-19 : A World Bank Group Input to the 2030 Development Strategy. World Bank, Washington, DC. © World Bank. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO. 

[9] Ministère de l’Environnement, de la Salubrité Urbaine et du Développement Durable, République de Côte d’Ivoire (2016). STRATEGIE ET PLAN D’ACTION POUR LA DIVERSITE BIOLOGIQUE NATIONALE 2016-2020.


[11] Global Environment Facility (2022). GEF CEO celebrates mangrove restoration efforts in Cote d'Ivoire. [Online]. Available:

[12] MINEDD, 2021 : Résumé aux décideurs du 1er Rapport sur l’Etat de l’Environnement Marin et côtier de la Côte D’Ivoire (REEM-CI). Projet Gestion Intégrée de l’Aire Marine et côtière d’Abidjan à Assinie (GIAMAA / CIAPOL), 20p.