Land degradation and desertification are currently a major concern in Côte d'Ivoire [1], with desertification and drought affecting 60% of the national territory and as much as 90% in the northern parts [2]. According to the country’s National Drought Plan, land degradation in Côte d'Ivoire has resulted in a reduction in arable land and very significant migrations of populations towards forest areas in the south-west, infiltrations in parks and classified reserves, as well as many land disputes [1]. The impact of land degradation and desertification on the country’s agriculture and agro-industry sectors has been profound, threatening the very foundation of Côte d’Ivoire’s national economy, and posing threats to energy and health security, with long term ramifications on peace and progress [3].

Côte d’Ivoire has suffered severe land degradation since its independence. As part of the country’s commitment to implement Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN), Côte d’Ivoire established a baseline situation using national and international data provided by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). In general, from 2000 to 2010, a degradation rate of 11% of the territory was observed, or 3,547,093 hectares of soil (reference line). Specifically, 1,956,800 ha were affected by negative transformations; land with a net productivity decline was 1,607,454 ha; and the carbon stock decreased by 444,384 tons [4].

Land use and land cover in Côte d’Ivoire has changed dramatically over the last few decades, with the most striking feature being the expansion of agricultural land [5]. Between 2000 and 2013, forest cover was reduced by 4.21%, corresponding to a loss of 1,360,000 ha of forest. In the same period, shrub savannas decreased by 596,800 ha and the area of wetlands and water bodies decreased by 9,600 hectares, whilst the area of cultivated land increased by 5.87% [4].

Deforestation in Côte d’Ivoire is caused to a large extent by the rapid development of agriculture, with the main driver of deforestation being cocoa. Deforestation reduces the productivity of agriculture by depleting nutrient sources, changing rainfall patterns, and decreasing biodiversity, and climate change is expected to aggravate this challenge [5]. 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. 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 [6] (compared to the 28 million today) [7]. 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 [8].


The main drivers of land degradation and deforestation in Côte d'Ivoire include agricultural expansion, overexploitation of timber, illegal logging, exploitation of wood energy (firewood and charcoal), mining activities, illegal gold panning, forest fires, accelerated urbanization and creation of infrastructure, and grazing [4], [7].

Agriculture remains an important driver of land use and land cover change in Côte d’Ivoire. In the southern half of the country, rainfall is higher and the soils more productive, making it the center of production for most export crops, including coffee and cacao. In the northern half of the country, large increases in subsistence and cash crops, such as cotton, sugar, starches, and rice, have fragmented the broad expanses of woodland and savannas. Because a large part of the population in Côte d’Ivoire obtains its subsistence from farming, agricultural land expansion has been driven mostly by population growth [5].


Key policies and governance approach

To reverse land degradation in Côte d'Ivoire, the country has ratified the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and has developed a National Plan to Combat Land Degradation (PANLCD) [4]. Stemming from the PANLCD, Côte d'Ivoire is implementing a sustainable land management project. This project aims to maintain the functionality of the coffee-cocoa production areas in the centre and reverse the trend of land degradation in the northern part of the country, by creating a favourable political and capacity environment through the development of community land management plans and the facilitation of access to Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) best practices [7]. Côte d'Ivoire has also developed a National Drought Plan (PNS), which aims to put in place a certain number of principles, processes, and actions that will govern the management of drought and its consequences [1].

The country has adhered to the Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting Program (PDC NDT) in order to integrate provisions relating to LDN into its National Action Programs (NAP) and development policy. This program should make it possible to reverse the trend of land degradation while acting on degradation factors in particular, the climate, vegetation cover and human activities, including agricultural practises [7].

Côte d'Ivoire has set itself the objective, by 2030, of achieving LDN by restoring 100% of degraded land and increasing forest cover by 5 million hectares, with a view to improving the living conditions of the population in a sustainable manner. More specifically, by 2030, Côte d'Ivoire is committed to strengthening the measures and efforts underway to: (i) increase forest cover by 3 million hectares; (ii) limit to 1% the rate of conversion of forests into other forms of land use; (iii) improve the productivity of 2 million hectares of existing forests with a net decrease in productivity; (iv) improve the productivity of 800,000 hectares of agricultural land with a decline in net productivity; (v) recover 7,200 hectares of bare land for agricultural production; and (vi) sequester 50,000 tonnes of carbon released into the atmosphere. To achieve LDN, Côte d'Ivoire plans to implement a set of legislative and regulatory, institutional, and technical measures [4], [7].

Further, Côte d'Ivoire has taken several steps to reverse the trend of deforestation and restore forest cover in the country. This includes: (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) [7] with the European Union, which concluded in October 2022 [9], 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 [7].

Successes and remaining challenges

In 2022, the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), took place in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. This was the first time that Côte d’Ivoire had hosted a COP for one of the three Rio Conventions, emphasizing the country’s continued commitment to keep land issues high on the international agenda [10]. Additionally, Côte d’Ivoire also demonstrated its strong commitment through the Abidjan Legacy Programme, an exemplary integrated sustainable land management (SLM) and restoration project across Côte d’Ivoire, intended as a roadmap to inspire others and increase prosperity and connectivity among West African nations [11]. Speaking at the closing ceremony of UNCCD COP15, Patrick Achi, Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire, drew attention to the US$2.5 billion raised for the Abidjan Legacy Programme launched by Côte d’Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara at the Heads of State Summit on 9 May, which had already surpassed the US$1.5 billion anticipated for it [10].

Further, Côte d’Ivoire launched the Abidjan Call to mobilize the international community to support LDN and put the spotlight on the first session of the Gender Caucus, chaired by the Ivorian First Lady on the opening day of the conference. The resulting “Abidjan Declaration on Achieving Gender Equality for Successful Land Restoration” underscores the pioneering role of the Convention in championing women’s rights, including in the challenging issue of land tenure [11].

However, concerning drought management, many important challenges exist in Côte d’Ivoire, as highlighted in the country’s National Drought Plan. Challenges include poor coordination of actions at the national level, weak stakeholder participation, a poor monitoring mechanism for drought, low funding, low involvement of women in drought management, and weak communication [1].

Initiatives and Development Plans

The "Abidjan Initiative" or "Abidjan Legacy Program", presented at COP15 on the fight against desertification, constitutes Côte d'Ivoire’s integrated response, aimed at creating the conditions for environmental sustainability and enabling the agricultural sector to generate more jobs and income [7]. The Abidjan Legacy Program is a five-year, $1.5 billion (approximately CFA 900 billion), comprehensive and innovative approach to new prosperity. It is structured around 4 main pillars. Such domains are the (i) fight against deforestation and forest restoration, which aims to restore 20% of the Ivorian forest cover by the end of the decade, (ii) improving agricultural productivity through mechanization and soil restoration, (iii) actions to make current value chains more sustainable with more significant local processing, to generate more wealth and jobs, especially for youth and women, and (iv) the identification of future value chains that are soil-friendly and will resist climate change. According to the Prime Minister, the Abidjan Initiative is a plan that can be exported. It is a program whose main principles can be applied to all countries facing the challenges of desertification and deforestation [12].

Implementation will involve the private sector and development partners, with support already received from the African Development Bank, Team Europe, which includes the European Union and the European Investment Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), UNDP, the West African Development Bank (BOAD) and the Ban-Ki Moon Institute [12].

Goals and Ambitions

Côte d'Ivoire has made the commitment under the AFR 100 initiative (African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative) to restore 5 million hectares of deforested landscapes by 2030 [7].

  • Côte d'Ivoire needs to take appropriate measures to maintain healthy and productive land, reaffirming the continued commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially SDG 15.3 on achieving LDN by 2030. Countries are urged to place soil and land at the center of spatial planning policies that will establish healthy ecosystems and ensure global food security [11].
  • Strong mobilization of resources remains necessary for the implementation of activities in view of the vast programs identified and included in the framework of the fight against land degradation and desertification [4]There is a need for the broad mobilization of new partners and finance for land restoration, as each dollar invested in land restoration can generate USD 7-30 in return [11]
  • Environmental concerns— including land degradation —need to be better incorporated into the activities of other ministries [5].
  • Improve data gathering and monitoring to track progress against the achievement of land restoration commitments [10].
  • Address forced migration and displacement driven by desertification and land degradation by creating social and economic opportunities that increase rural resilience and livelihood stability, and by mobilizing resources for land restoration projects [10].
  • Address the issue of gender equality and the full participation of women and youth in the development and implementation of drought and land restoration policies [11], and promote women's access to land ownership [7].
  • Equal access to land rights could have positive effects on forest restoration and sustainable ecosystem management [7].
  • Ensure greater synergies among the three Rio Conventions, including complementarities in the implementation of these treaties through nature-based solutions and target-setting at the national level [10].
  • Boost drought resilience by identifying the expansion of drylands, improving national policies and early warning, monitoring and assessment; learning and sharing knowledge; building partnerships and coordinating action; and mobilizing drought finance [10].
  • Promote partnerships between public institutions, the private sector, the civil society, research institutes and universities to develop and finance research and public awareness programs [1].
  • Respond to the challenges and the need for sustainable commodity value chains [11].
  • Awareness-raising activities on environmental issues are needed to sensitize the population to the fight against land degradation [7].
  • 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 [5].
  • 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 [5].
  • The government should continue to implement its existing forest strategies and policies and build on the lessons learned under the REDD+ process [5].


[2] Bloomberg L.P (2022). Top Cocoa Grower Touts $1.5 Billion Plan to Restore Forests. [Online]. Available:

[3] World Economic Forum (2022). COP15 desertification conference: new frameworks to reverse biodiversity loss and deforestation. [Online]. Available:

[4] Ministère de la Salubrité de l’Environnement et du Développement Durable, République de Côte d’Ivoire (2017). Engagement de la Côte d’Ivoire de mettre en œuvre la Neutralité en matière de Dégradation des Terres.

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

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

[10] United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (2022). United global call to act on land degradation and drought concludes major UN meeting in Côte d’Ivoire. [Online]. Available:

[11] Earth Negotiations Bulletin, IISD (2022). Summary report, 9–20 May 2022: 15th Session of the Conference of the Parties of the UNCCD (COP 15). [Online]. Available:

[12] ARAA (2022). COP 15: The Abidjan Legacy Program, an ambitious $1.5 billion initiative. [Online]. Available: