Newsweek, Japan. Week of August 26th, 2012. Images by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.
Newsweek, Japan. Week of August 26th, 2012. Images by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.
A manual laborer rests amidst sacks of cocoa at Saf Cacao in San Pedro, Ivory Coast. The country provides approximately 40 percent of the world's cocoa. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.
A mural on the wall at Choco Ivoire, an Ivorian company that processes cocoa butter, in San Pedro, Ivory Coast. The cocoa trade has long been a source of bitter contention in the country. Initially migrant workers from across West Africa were invited to the country to share in its farmland, helping Ivory Coast become the world's top producer. But once the economy went sour in the 1980s, cocoa profits became more jealously guarded. Land disputes erupted, sparking xenophobic violence that became a ten-year civil war. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.
Refugees who had been living in Liberia wait to be returned home to their villages in a large UN refugee repatriation in Toulepleu, Ivory Coast. Having fled during last year's post-election violence, this is the first time in a year that they will see their homes. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.
A man sees his destroyed home for the first time since fleeing a year earlier in a village near Blolequin, Ivory Coast. He had been living in a refugee camp in neighboring Liberia. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.
Employees of Choco Ivoire in San Pedro, Ivory Coast. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.
Pacom Okroo makes a small carving in a rubber tree to allow for the sap to drip out for harvesting at a plantation in Faye, Ivory Coast. Rubber has become increasingly profitable in the region and requires less work than cocoa. Some experts predict that it will soon overtake cocoa as the country's biggest export crop. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.
Items in a destroyed home in Niambli, Ivory Coast. Niambli, a village divided between local and foreign ethnic groups, was the site of heavy fighting during last year's post-election violence. This area has once again been the site of bloodshed in recent months, as the UN guarded refugee camp has been raided and destroyed. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

The story begins innocently enough. Fertile soil attracts labor from far and wide. Factories provide employment, farmland is plentiful, and for a time the economy of Ivory Coasts boomed as a much-desired commodity – cocoa – is exported across the globe.

But the story of cocoa has never been an innocent one. So valuable in the Aztec court that it was used as currency, blood has been shed over cocoa profits since Europeans first developed a taste for chocolate. Over the past two centuries, farming and production have moved from country to country, from the Caribbean to West Africa, always dependent on rich farmland and cheap labor.

Ivory Coast’s ethnic strife is the most recent chapter in cocoa’s troubled history. Initially migrant workers from across West Africa were invited to the country to share in its farmland, helping Ivory Coast become the world's top producer. (Today it provides some 40 percent of the world's crop.) But once the economy went sour in the 1980s, cocoa profits became more jealously guarded. Land disputes erupted, sparking xenophobic violence that became a ten-year civil war

With the close of post-election violence last year and the ascendance of a new government, the war is supposedly over. But new attacks are still carried out between rival factions; thousands of people still live in refugee camps; and those who return to their destroyed homes swear vengeance. As always, cocoa production continues through the strife, but reconciliation and a true end to conflict may still be a long way off.

Project

In Ivory Coast—the world’s top cocoa producer—cocoa farmers bore the brunt of a civil war that killed thousands and displaced more than a million. A year after a power transfer, has anything changed?

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