Friday, 7 February 2014

Madagascar's forests vanish to feed taste for 'bois de rose'

Blood-red sawdust coats every surface in the small carpentry workshop, where Primo Jean Besy is at the lathe fashioning vases out of ruby-coloured logs.

Besy and his father are small-scale carpenters in Antalaha in north-east Madagascar, and are taking advantage of a recent resurgence in demand for wood from the bois de rose tree, prized for the extraordinary coloured streaks that weave through its centre.

"It's easy to sell because the wood is so famous," said Besy, whose skin glistens with red powder. "People from [the capital] Antananarivo come here [to buy goods]. They like it because they can sell it to foreigners."

The father and son pair are just the tip of the booming trade in bois de rose, one of the world's rarest trees, even though the logging and export of rosewood from Madagascar is banned.

The wood is being smuggled out of Madagascar at an alarming rate, said Randrianasolo Eliahevitra, regional director of the church-based development organisation SAF/FJKM. "People are afraid to talk [about who is behind the smuggling]," said Eliahevitra, adding that he feared for his life if he named any of those responsible.

He said continuing political instability in Madagascar, a country reeling in poverty after four years of military rule and crippling economic sanctions, allowed the multimillion-dollar industry to flourish.

"At this time we don't have yet a legal government, so everyone is taking advantage of the situation and they are doing what they want," Eliahevitra said.

In the village of Cap Est, a nine-hour journey from Antalaha along a sandy coastal track interrupted by wide rivers, which motorbikes and 4x4s have to cross by precariously straddling canoes, residents say the once tiny fishing community is almost unrecognisable. Deep muddy troughs made by the constant convoys of pick-up trucks line the sandy path that cuts through the smattering of small wooden houses; crates of beer, sacks of rice and mattresses stream in on a daily basis.

To read the rest of this article, please click on this link to the Guardian's website.

Abidjan - cyber crime capital of Africa

Phishing, hacking, phreaking, 4-1-9 scams - however you describe it, cyber crime is on the rise in Ivory Coast.

According to the Ivorian government, it received more complaints about cyber criminality in the first half of 2013 than any other country on the continent, making it Africa's unlikely capital of "brouteurs" - Ivorian slang for cyber criminals.

Sitting on the edge of the Ebrie lagoon in the heart of the financial district of Abidjan, one former brouteur, who would speak only on condition of anonymity, says he started when he was 16 because it was the "fashion" at the time.

As the 22-year-old nervously stubs out his cigarette, looking around to check no-one else is listening, he describes how the "love method" is the most lucrative.

"You [find] yourself a man or a woman who is looking for love," he explains. "Then you start chatting and exchange photos."  After that, he says, comes what they call the tax - the money he would wheedle out of his unsuspecting "lover".

To read the rest of the online article, please click on this link to the BBC website
To listen to the radio version, please click on this link.
To watch the BBC World TV report, please click on this link to the BBC website.

Crack down on music piracy

Ivory Coast is home to some of the most well-known musicians in the Francophone world – Magic System, Alpha Blondy and Meiway – but because of piracy, artists see a fraction of the money.

It’s estimated more than 80% of it is lost to bootlegged CDs and illegal downloads.

But in a unique project, the first of its kind in West Africa, the Ivorian government is clamping down on the illicit industry. The BBC’s Tamasin Ford reports from Abidjan.

To listen to this report, please click on this link.

The need to speak English...

Ivory Coast’s economy is booming.  More than two years after conflict rocked the nation, it has one of the highest GDP growth rates in the world.  President Allassane Ouattara is diversifying trade relations to include countries other than France.  But as it opens up its economy to investors and businesses from all over the world, a new trend is emerging among the younger generations – the need to speak English.  With the growth of technology along with new travel, job and study opportunities, the desire to speak the business language of the world has never been higher.  The BBC’s Tamasin Ford reports from Abidjan.

To listen to this report, please click on this link.

Rising price of chocolate

It’s been dubbed a global crisis by Forbes.  The Financial Times has told chocoholics to beware.  We’re talking about the rising price of chocolate.  By the end of this year, prices are expected to have increased by a third.  

It's because of low supplies in the main cocoa growing region of West Africa.  Some analysts have put it down to bad weather.  But farmers in Ivory Coast – the world’s biggest cocoa producer – say it’s not only about the rainfall.  

Supplies are low because they’re switching to the more lucrative crop of rubber.  The BBC’s Tamasin Ford reports from Abengourou – in the east of the country.

To listen to this report, please click on this link.

The trials of teenage pregnancy

Childbirth is the leading cause of death for teenage girls – according to this year’s UN population report, Motherhood in Childhood.  As experts from around the globe attend the world’s largest family planning summit in Addis Ababa today, the UN warns that teenage pregnancies are rising dramatically. 

West and Central Africa have the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the developing world.  The BBC’s Tamasin Ford reports from Abidjan, the commercial capital of Ivory Coast.

To listen to this report, please click on this link.

Former Ghanaian President defends Ivorian government

Former Ghanaian President, John Kufuor, has defended President Alassane Ouattara’s efforts at reconciling post-conflict Ivory Coast.  He was speaking to the BBC in Abidjan on an official visit as head of Interpeace – an independent organisation focussed on conflict resolution.  More than three thousand people died after elections sparked violence across the country three years ago.  The BBC’s Tamasin Ford began by asking him about Ivory Coast’s developments since the crisis.

To listen to this interview, please click on this link.

Increase in sexual violence

Rape and other forms of sexual violence are on the increase in Ivory Coast – that’s the warning from the United Nations Independent Expert on Human Rights. He was speaking to reporters in Abidjan earlier this week – after a ten day mission to assess the human rights situation in the country. He also said there’s worrying evidence that state actors, like the army, are often the perpetrators. The UN expert’s comments back up what local and international charities in the country have been telling the BBC’s Tamasin Ford – who sent this report from Bouake, the former capital of the north of Ivory Coast.

To listen to this report, please click on this link.

Ivory Coast hopes to squeeze the profits from palm oil

The palm oil industry originated in West Africa but is now dominated by massive plantations in South-East Asia. The BBC's Tamasin Ford reports that Ivory Coast, and other African countries, are trying to take the lucrative business back home to tap into its profits.

An hour's drive to the west of Abidjan, Ivory Coast's skyscraper-filled commercial capital, palm trees dominate the landscape; thousands upon thousands of them in neat orderly rows.

People have renamed the long, sweeping highway "Plantation Road". Most of the land belongs to PALMCI, a subsidiary of SIFCA Group, an Ivorian company involved in palm oil, sugar and rubber production across West Africa.

But, as in Nigeria and Ghana, it is the smallholders in Ivory Coast, like Desire-Jacques Porquet, who produce most of the country's palm oil.

To read the rest of this article, please click on this link to the BBC website.

Palm oil comes home

When you think of palm oil, you probably think of countries like Malaysia or Indonesia.  Quite rightly…as that’s where more than 90% of the world’s oil comes from.  But land is quickly running out in these countries and as demand for the oil increases, companies are flocking to Africa instead.  More specifically West Africa – where, in fact, palm oil originates from.  The BBC’s Tamasin Ford went to visit a palm oil plantation in Ivory Coast for Focus on Africa.

West Africa's only female forensic scientist

Women in the 21st century have more rights and opportunities than ever before.  But more than a century after they began winning the vote, most societies are still denominated by men.  Women’s wages are lower.  They make up just 20% of the world’s governments.  And millions of teenage girls never get a chance to finish school.  But there ARE women out there breaking down those barriers.  In Ivory Coast, the BBC’s Tamasin Ford went to meet one woman doing just that.  As the head of the Forensic Science Institute, Professor Helena Yapo Etté is the only female forensic scientist in the whole of West Africa.

Les Elephants!

I speak to Yaya Toure and Salomon Kalou ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Senegal in October 2013. Have a listen to Toure telling me about his new found love of Twitter...and Kalou on pressures in the run up to Brazil 2014. 

The Tour de Cote d'Ivoire

They have cycled up mountains, through rainforests and over pot-holed roads – the Tour de Cote d’Ivoire is no ordinary cycling race.  It’s one of tough terrains and souring humidity levels.  But it’s also one of the many emerging tours in Africa hoping to become accredited by UCI – the sport’s world governing body.  The BBC’s Tamasin Ford was at the finish line in Abidjan, the country’s commercial capital.