Côte d'Ivoire’s forests are a major asset for biodiversity and sustainable development [1]. Yet, the once dense Ivorian forest has been largely transformed into a mosaic of secondary forests, plantations of cash crops, food crops and fallow land [2]. Over the last 60 years, 90% of the forest cover has disappeared, making Côte d'Ivoire one of the countries with the highest annual rates of deforestation in Africa and the world. At current rates, there will be less than 2 million hectares of forest left in Côte d'Ivoire by 2035, and no more forest in the southern part of the country (except for protected areas). This projection is even more worrying given that, by 2035, the country’s population could exceed 37 million inhabitants [3] (compared to the 28 million today) [2]. Soon, Côte d’Ivoire’s forests will be unable to fulfil their ecosystem functions, threatening the economic value of the country’s agricultural sector and putting the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers at risk [4]

Between 1990 and 2020, Côte d'Ivoire lost approximately 5 million ha of its forest cover [2], [3]. This 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 [5]. According to the National Forest and Wildlife Inventory (IFFN), the forest cover decreased from 7.9 million hectares in 1990 to 2.97 million hectares in 2020. This represents just 9% of the national territory, down from the nearly 50% in 1960 [2], [3]. This excessive exploitation of vegetation leads to a significant reduction in biodiversity, a loss of primary production, and a reduction in carbon sequestration [2].

Today, the forest area of 2.97 million ha is divided into 2,880,490 ha of natural forest (8.9% of the territory) and 92,340 ha of reforested area (0.3% of the total land area). Specifically, this area is made up of: (i) 558,030 ha of classified forest; (ii) 674,500 ha of protected areas; and (iii) 1,740,300 ha of rural land [2]. However, according to the National Forest and Wildlife Inventory (IFFN), only 13.3% of classified forests, 32.2% of protected areas and 6.7% of rural land still contain forest cover [3], [6].


Deforestation and forest degradation in Côte d'Ivoire are caused by various factors, including the expansion of slash-and-burn agriculture, the uncontrolled harvesting of firewood and other forest resources, illegal logging, accidental or intentional bushfires, and mining—particularly illegal small-scale gold mining [2], [7]. The main driver of deforestation in the country is cocoa production, particularly in the southwest, where most of Côte d’Ivoire’s remaining forests are located and where farming accounts for about 80% of deforestation. Additionally, increasing urbanization in the forested part of the country and high poverty rates in rural areas put further pressure on forests. Rising temperatures are also expected to increase the vulnerability of the country’s forests, whilst undermining their ability to deliver environmental services, such as regulating temperatures, helping generate rainfall, and purifying air and water [7].


Key policies and governance approach

In recent years, Côte d'Ivoire has taken several steps to reverse the trend of deforestation and restore forest cover in the country. Actions include: (i) the adoption of the National REDD+ Strategy, including the "zero deforestation agriculture" strategic option, in 2017; (ii) the signing of the Joint Action Framework of the Cocoa and Forests Initiative, in November 2017, which aims to eliminate deforestation in the cocoa supply chain, which is the main driver of deforestation in Côte d'Ivoire; (iii) the adoption of the Policy for the Preservation, Rehabilitation and Extension of Forests, in May 2018, aimed at bringing the rate of forest cover to at least 20% in 2030, and a new Forest Code promulgated on July 23 2019; (iv) engagement in the negotiation process of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) FLEGT (forest law enforcement, governance and trade) [2] with the European Union, which concluded in October 2022 [8],  in order to guarantee the legality and traceability of timber marketed; and (v) the adoption of the National Strategy for Sustainable Cocoa Farming, in March 2022, where one of the strategic axes concerns the fight against deforestation. Côte d'Ivoire has also strengthened its institutional framework with the creation and operationalization of a Special Surveillance and Intervention Brigade (BSSI) in February 2019, to strengthen the surveillance of the country's forest massifs and resources [2].

The new Forest Code promulgated on July 23, 2019, provides a regulatory framework for implementation of the country’s Policy for the Preservation, Rehabilitation and Extension of Forests. It seeks to promote public–private partnerships for forest management, agroforestry, and tree tenure security [7]. This code introduces profound changes in Ivorian forestry legislation, including the creation of new forest categories (such as agroforests, community forests, sacred forests, etc.) [9]. The code introduces agroforests as a new land zoning type where farming will be permitted under strict rules that would halt or even reverse deforestation [7].

In addition, to ensure sustainable forest management, Côte d'Ivoire has initiated the involvement of non-State actors in forest management. Thus, a feasibility study was carried out in this direction. The State has also identified certain classified forests whose management will be done in public-private partnership. 86 forests with a total area of 2,096,997 ha are eligible for this concession regime. Additionally, the State is gradually erecting certain classified forests which have a high conservation rate into national parks or reserves. As such, 2 classified forests have been set up as nature reserves, namely the Mabi-Yaya nature reserve in 2019 with an area of 61,282 ha and the Bossématié reserve in 2022 with an area of 22 048 ha. Further, the partial nature reserve of Aghien was created in 2020, covering 5,675 ha [2].

Successes and remaining challenges

The actions outlined above have made it possible for the country to reduce its rate of deforestation. Forest cover loss in Côte d'Ivoire has gone from an average of 275,000 ha per year between 1990 and 2000, to 71,600 ha per year between 2015 and 2021, and 26,000 ha per year between 2019 and 2021. Further, in terms of reforestation, during the “1 day, X million trees” operations, Côte d'Ivoire planted 1.2 million trees in 2019, nearly 6.4 million trees in 2020, and more than 28 million trees in 2021 [2].

Despite these successes, some major challenges still need to be addressed and met in Côte d'Ivoire in order to reverse the trend of deforestation and restore the country’s forest cover. As outlined in the country’s Voluntary National Review, the major challenges include: (i) the lack of information and a resistance to change; (ii) the need to establish traceability systems for agricultural products, and satellite monitoring of forests with early warning of deforestation to ensure the surveillance and monitoring of forests; and (iii) the need for consultations to synergise the actions of the main actors of different agricultural value chains, in order to address common challenges, and capitalize on the achievements and experiences of the actions undertaken [2]. In addition, coordination between the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development and its national agencies should also be further improved to ensure sustainable forest management. At the same time, environmental concerns— including deforestation—need to be better incorporated into the activities of other ministries [7].

Nevertheless, the country has ambitious reforestation plans, and recent research by UNEP-WCMC, supported by UN-REDD and CocoaSoils, has shown that Côte d’Ivoire can achieve its target of 20% forest cover by 2030. To help reach this target, Côte d’Ivoire plans to rehabilitate 1 million hectares of cocoa in highly degraded forest reserves through agroforestry and forest plantations, and promote agroforestry in 1 million hectares of cocoa, rubber, and oil palm in rural areas. According to UNEP-WCMC’s research, there is great geographical potential to progress Côte d’Ivoire’s ambitions to increase tree cover in or around the country’s cocoa growing areas. The study found that across rural areas, forest trees could be introduced or increased on 1.8 million hectares of low shade cocoa to meet the basic agroforestry definition of around 30% shade, well exceeding the 1-million-hectare national goal for cocoa, oil palm and rubber together. Additionally, within highly degraded forest reserves, almost 600,000 hectares of low- and partial shade cocoa plantations were found where tree cover could be increased to meet high shade levels. Assuming the full potential for cocoa agroforestry is met in these areas, the national goal of 20% forest cover could be met, and even exceeded if less degraded classified forests are restored to natural forests [10].

However, the numbers presented in this study represent the estimated maximum potential. In reality, implementation of agroforestry will depend on a variety of local socio-economic and environmental factors and objectives. Ultimately, success will depend on cocoa farmers receiving support to boost large scale implementation. Further, the study calls for cocoa and chocolate companies and civil society leaders to support cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire in transitioning to agroforestry, with a focus on areas where agroforestry can improve ecosystem services and biodiversity, not reduce them [10].

Initiatives and Development Plans

The Cocoa & Forests Initiative represents an active commitment of top cocoa-producing countries, with leading chocolate and cocoa companies, to end deforestation and restore forest areas, through no further conversion of any forest land for cocoa production. The initiative is chaired by the governments of Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Colombia, is facilitated by IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative and the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), and is generously supported by P4F, BUZA and SECO.

The cocoa and chocolate sector commitments are captured in the Cocoa & Forests Initiative Collective Statement of Intent. Launched on March 2017 by the Prince of Wales, it has now been signed by 35 companies committing to “working together, pre-competitively, to end deforestation and forest degradation in the cocoa supply chain, with an initial focus on Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire”. Following the Statement of Intent, Frameworks for Action have been signed by the governments and leading chocolate and cocoa companies in Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Colombia. These Frameworks focus on: (i) Conservation of National Parks and forested land, as well as restoration of forests that have been degraded by cocoa farm encroachment; (ii) Sustainable intensification and diversification of income in order to increase farmers’ yields and livelihood, to grow “more cocoa on less land” and thereby reduce pressure on forests; and (iii) Engagement and empowerment of cocoa-growing communities. In particular mitigation of the social impacts and risks of land-use changes on affected cocoa farmers and their communities [11].

Additionally, to step up work on making cocoa more sustainable, in June 2022, the EU and Côte d’Ivoire, with Ghana and the cocoa sector, jointly endorsed an “Alliance on Sustainable Cocoa”, an ambitious roadmap to improve the economic, social, and environmental sustainability of cocoa production and trade. The EU and the European Investment Bank have also planned contributions over €200 million in Côte d'Ivoire. In 2021, under the national Multi-Annual Indicative programme 2021-2027 for Côte d'Ivoire, an €18 million programme was committed to support the implementation of the “Sustainable Cocoa” initiative as part of the Global Gateway [12].

  • The government will need to continue implementing its existing forest strategies and policies and build on the lessons learned under the REDD+ process [7].
  • Coordination between the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development and its national agencies should be further improved [7].
  • Environmental concerns— including deforestation—need to be better incorporated into the activities of other ministries [7].
  • Sensitize the population on the danger of deforestation. In addition, an effort to raise awareness, demonstrate and disseminate good agricultural practices, particularly those related to agroforestry, is necessary to break down resistance to change [2].
  • Continue the construction of traceability systems for agricultural products, and satellite monitoring of forests with early warning of deforestation to ensure the surveillance and monitoring of forests [2].
  • 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 [7].
  • To achieve zero deforestation agriculture, regular consultations need to be organized between the main actors of the different agricultural value chains to address common challenges, and to capitalize on the achievements and experiences of actions undertaken [2].
  • Transforming existing cocoa landscapes to agroforestry practices by increasing tree cover in or around cocoa plantations can support national and sub-national forest cover restoration objectives as set out in national policies. Additionally, implementing agroforestry in current cocoa growing areas alone could potentially help to store an extra 120 million metric tons of carbon [5], [10].
  • However, though agroforests can support important biodiversity, carbon sequestration and other services, natural forests provide higher value services and better habitat for biodiversity conservation. To preserve farmers’ livelihoods, Côte d’Ivoire has chosen agroforestry as a strategy in highly degraded classified forests, rather than natural forest restoration. But, considering the limited area of natural forest remaining in Côte d’Ivoire, it remains crucial to protect and restore these where possible [10].
  • More studies are required to understand how a changing climate will impact adaptation efforts through cocoa agroforestry and how agroforestry systems should be implemented to maximise the benefits for farmers, local communities, carbon sequestration and biodiversity conservation [5].
  • The conditions and incentives for cocoa farmers to adopt agroforestry practices need to be improved for large scale implementation programmes to be successful [5].
  • International best practices can be expected to yield positive results for Côte d’Ivoire. Applying landscape approaches and ensuring co-management of forests in collaboration with local communities and other stakeholders, would improve the chances of success of restoration and conservation. The approach balances competing land-use demands with environmental concerns, while taking into account livelihoods, food production, and restoration [7].
  • Equal access to land rights could have positive effects on forest restoration and sustainable ecosystem management [2].
  • 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 [7].

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



[4] The Global Green Growth Institute (2022). GGGI Côte d’Ivoire Country Planning Framework.

[5] 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] 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. 

[8] VPA Africa – Latin America Facility (2022). EU and Côte d’Ivoire conclude negotiations on an agreement to combat illegal logging. [Online]. Available:


[10] World Cocoa Foundation (2022). Research Shows Côte d’Ivoire Can Restore 20% of its Forest Cover by 2030. [Online]. Available:

[11] IDH (2022). Cocoa & Forests Initiative. [Online]. Available:

[12] Directorate-General for Trade, European Commission (2022). EU, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and the cocoa sector endorse an Alliance on Sustainable Cocoa. [Online]. Available: