Thousands of Ivorian farmers and their families have been left homeless, following a government crackdown on cocoa growers farming illegally in Ivory Coast's Mont Peko National Park. Lucy Fielder reports
Breaking up illegal camps... These park rangers driving cocoa farmers out of Ivory Coast's Mont Peko national park. Warlords sold off parcels of protected land, much of it to immigrants from neighbouring countries, during a period of crisis and war from 2002-2011. It was turned over to growing Ivory Coast's top cash crop - cocoa. Thousands of those farmers are now homeless. (SOUNDBITE) (French) FARMER EVICTED FROM MONT PEKO PARK, VINCENT BIGOURE SAYING: "The state has deceived us, they've been promising us things for three years now and now they've changed everything. If we knew we would be living like this maybe many of us would have left. But they made us believe they were going to do something." Hundreds of thousands could be left destitute by the evictions in the western cocoa belt. This area witnessed some of the wars' worst massacres, and remains tense. (SOUNDBITE) (English) JOE BAVIER, REUTERS REPORTER, SAYING: "The fear is that by pushing these mainly immigrant farmers out of the parks and into the surrounding communities and villages, you're only going to be exacerbating the tensions that already exist." But scientists say the cost of doing nothing is even higher. Ivory Coast's rainforest is the most rapidly disappearing in Africa. Populations of chimpanzees, forest elephants and the rare pygmy hippopotamus have been destroyed. And deforestation has affected rainfall, so cocoa and coffee yields are dropping anyway. This could be the last chance for the rainforests... But unless the human cost is redressed, that too could be deadly.