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Ivory Coast: Cocoa in the Shade of War

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Moussadougou (above) is a farming community that has rapidly grown to 30,000 residents over the past few decades, most of them "immigrants" from northern Ivory Coast. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

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A farmer looks over cocoa seedlings on a farm outside Pinhou. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

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Farmers burn the land to clear it for a new planting season outside San Pedro. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

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Cocoa pods grow on farmland near Pinhou. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

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Rotten cocoa pods on a plantation in Faye. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

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The Nahibly refugee camp outside Duekoue. The town was the site of heavy fighting and a large massacre that killed hundreds during last year's post-election violence, and many people still refuse to leave the relative comfort and security of the refugee camp to return home. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

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A group of Dozo, or traditional hunters, poses for a photograph at their encampment in Duekoue. The role of the Dozo in last year's post-election violence is unclear; while many maintain that they are the protectors of the region, supporters of former president Laurent Gbagbo insist that the Dozo joined with the advancing opposition army and participated in heavy fighting and even massacres. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

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A woman who was the victim of sexual violence during last year's post-election conflict in Duekoue. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

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Jean Luc Gnompoa fled from post-election violence last year and narrowly escaped a massacre. He is now living in a refugee camp, too afraid to move home. He hasn't seen his cocoa plantation in more than a year, and is not sure he'll ever get it back. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

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Refugees who had been living in Liberia return to their village for the first time in a year in Bledi Dieya. Having fled during last year's post-election violence, this is the first time they will see their homes and move back in. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

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A man sees his destroyed home for the first time since fleeing a year earlier in a village near Blolequin. He had been living in a refugee camp in Liberia. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

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Helene Maimoura cooks in her home in Niambli. The village is divided between local and foreign ethnic groups and was the site of heavy fighting during last year's post-election violence. Maimoura is from the local ethnic group, but is married to the chief of the foreigners. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

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Refugees who had been living in Liberia wait to be returned home to their villages in a large UN repatriation operation in Toulepleu. Having fled during last year's post-election violence, this is the first time in a year they will see their homes. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

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A mural on the wall at Choco Ivoire, an Ivorian company that processes cocoa butter, in San Pedro. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

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Employees of Choco Ivoire at work as a new harvest of cocoa arrives and processing begins. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

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Workers clean machinery at Choco Ivoire in preparation for the new harvest of cocoa to arrive and processing to begin. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

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An employee of Saf Cacao, the largest nationally owned cocoa exporter in Ivory Coast, next to stacks of cocoa in San Pedro. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

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Cocoa butter on a table after being tested for its quality at Choco Ivoire. Image by Peter DiCampo. Ivory Coast, 2012.

From the Caribbean to Africa, the production of cocoa has long been a bittersweet tale of profit and power. Ethnic strife in Ivory Coast is the most recent chapter in this prized commodity’s checkered 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 were more jealously guarded. Land disputes erupted, sparking xenophobic violence that became a 10-year civil war.

With the cessation 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.