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The FAIRTRADE chocolate rip-off

The pictures of happy African farmers on the FAIRTRADE chocolate bought by consumers in the West are designed to make the consumer believe that the broad smiles are a result of actual fair trade: support and a better income. But this impression is false. Exploitation in the West African cocoa industry continues, only with a new player on the block: FAIRTRADE itself, which benefits from the extra mark-up paid by supportive consumers. The FAIRTRADE label (issued by FAIRTRADE’s own certifying sister company Flo-Cert), hailed 20 years ago as an innovative institution which would improve the lives of farmers in the cocoa industry in West Africa, has not lived up to its promises.

During a periode of six months journalists from Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria and the Netherlands investigated the alleged benefits received by cocoa farmers in West Africa via the FAIRTRADE label.

Their conclusions: whilst the chocolate consumer in the West pays a significant mark-up for ‘honest’ chocolate, these benefits amount to little or no improvement in the lives of cocoa farmers. In some case, because of FAIRTRADE cooperatives’ increasing dominance, farmers were even worse off than before.

The full dossier is titled ‘The FAIRTRADE chocolate rip-off’. The project was led by the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR) and was partly funded by the Programme for African Investigative Reporting (PAIR).

By Selay Kouassi (Ivory Coast), Chief Bisong Etahoben (Cameroon), Benjamin Tetteh (Ghana), Aniefiok Udonquak (Nigeria), Bjinse Dankert and Janneke Donkerlo (Netherlands), Charles Rukuni (team leader), Evelyn Groenink (editor).

November 14, 2012.

Download a copy of the complete Transnational Investigation (pdf): The FAIRTRADE chocolate rip-off.

Death in the quest for gold

Sumary by Zoumana Coulibaly: Thousands of nationals of the West African sub-region (Malians, Ivoirians, Guineans, Burkinabes) all converge in large numbers daily at the Côte d’Ivoire-Mali border in search of gold, with the aim of making a fortune. While some of those “illegals” manage to succeed, it is not always the case for many of them, who return empty-handed. Worse, unlucky ones sometimes lose their lives there when mudslides occur.

A visitor who arrives there for the first time in the area is struck by the endless row of shacks commonly called “Manambougou” (Editor: a type of makeshift dwelling found in places where gold washing is practised). These slums serve as dormitories for the “gold workers”. Stores, shops, businesses of all kinds emerge in the midst of the shacks where an intense economic activity goes on. Near each “mananbougou” can be found a rugged terrain. Over there, one can see here and there heaps of sand in the midst of which are thousands of wells, fissures going to unimaginable depths. Those are the work sites which reveal an environmental catastrophe especially when on these destroyed lands, farming or livestock breeding can no longer take place, as some inhabitants living close to the area explained. These sites start from the last villages of the M’Bengué area (Côte d’Ivoire) and extend up to the Sikasso region in Mali. Men, women of all ages are busy there on a daily basis. Some dig trenches; others extract sand, while others still focus on washing the sand and stones in order to extract the precious metal.

At each one of the main sites, a gold market where sellers and buyers of the “yellow metal” mingle to do business. On these cosmopolitan sites, live thousands of persons of all walks of life, with varying attitudes and behaviour traits. Alcohol, drugs, sex. Everything happens there. These sites are like “no man’s lands”. There are characterised by their transience and nomadic life. Assaults cases are legion in this zone among the various categories of workers who live together. The presence of men of the gendarmerie and traditional hunters, “dozos”, reduces the violence and assaults on the sites. The risks on the job are enormous. Some are sometimes left with fractures, while the less fortunate simply lose their lives in the mudslides. This is one reality people do not like to talk about on the site. Yet, several people lose their lives there in total silence.

By Zoumana Coulibaly.

Published September 22, 2012 in Le Patriote.

Read the article in French Quand la quête de l’orconduit à la mort.



False results of biological and x-ray tests delivered to patients

Côte d’Ivoire: Instead of the ‘’service rendered’’ to enable the clinical physician to affirm accurately and without and unambiguously the diagnosis of a pathology and start the appropriate process for treatment, biological and x-ray tests have become, for the most part, ‘’poisoned chalices’’. The reason is that 2/3 of results from medical laboratories are full of mistakes. And they thus render inaccurate clinical diagnosis, quietly sending thousands of patients to death.

By Tié Traoré

Published September 13, 2012 in L’Intelligent d’Abidjan.

Read the summary made by Tié Traoré in English Summary by Tié Traoré.

Read the article in French Lucarne sur les morts et condamnés à mort des faux positifs et des faux négatifs.


What happened to the weapons of Gbagbo

In the eager preparation of the war, tons of weapons and ammunition were stored by the belligerent forces everywhere on the territory in deplorable conditions. Exposed to heat and lack of maintenance, these machines of death threaten the people’s security, and especially, the residents living around the camps and military barracks.

By Jean-Roche Kouamé

Published June 25, 2012 in l’Expression.

Read the article in French Ce que sont devenues les armes de guerre de Gbagbo.

The life of the Ivorian refugees in Mali

In the psychosis of the fighting and retaliations, they fled the country right from the early moments of the military cum political crisis. Today, a number of these refugees can still be found in Malian territory after more than seven years, for one reason or the other. Once received at the Loulouni refugee camp, some of them refused to move after that to the new reception centre located at Faragouaran in the District of Bougouni (305 km from the old site),  as demanded by the Malian Office of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Along with those, several hundreds of other Ivorians, male and female, who did not join any camp, are scattered all over the country. They suffer various misfortunes. Some “work” in the coping out system. Women left on their own under these conditions take to prostitution. And now to the controversial life of some of these compatriots.

An investigation in two parts by Coulibaly Zoumana.

Published September 23 and 24, 2010 in Le Jour.

Read the articles translated to English The life of the Ivoiran refugees in Mali

Read the articles in French Des femmes medient et se prostituent and De Bougouni à Faragouaran: Sur les traces des infortunes

Aids control: A closed circle where cronyism, blackmail and over invoicing reign

In the fight against HIV/AIDS in Côte d’Ivoire actors in the field experience mixed fortunes. The sick are grumbling while now and then shortages of medication are reported. And according to the stakeholders from the associations involved in the control of the pandemic, funds are allegedly distributed based on affinity and there is over invoicing of funds by the institutions in charge of making the grants and supervising funds allocated to the control projects. During this investigation conducted in three regions of Côte d’Ivoire, the journalist tried to penetrate this set-up where everything seems to be a taboo.

By Assassé William, published September 22 and 23, 2010 in Le Mandat.

Read the article translated to English AIDS control in Côte d’Ivoire

Read the articles in French La lutte contre le Sida – Un cercle fermé où règne copinage, chantage et surfacturation

A week on board the Abidjan Ouaga train

After a pause, following the September 19, 2002 failed coup attempt, the train whistles once again between Abidjan and Ouagadougou. Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday thousands of passengers and tonnes of goods move between the two countries. However, the Gazelle and Belier trains which used to run at the speed of 160 km/h are now only old memories. The golden age of the railway seems to have paled away. Now it takes more than two days to link up with the two capitals by rail which threatens to collapse anytime. Given the age and decrepit nature of the installation its survival can only be put down to a real feat of resourcefulness. Welcome to a week on the Abidjan-Ouagadougou rail line.

By Abou Traoré

Published Septembre 21, 2010 in Le Jour.

Read the article translated to English A week on board the tran from Abidjan to Ouagadougou

Read the article in French Chemin de fer Abidjan-Ouagadougou

What salaries for Ivorian sportsmen and women?

The million-dollar question. How much do Ivorian sportsmen and women earn? Difficult to get people to talk and the subject is taboo. While Ivorian professionals playing in European leagues see the amounts of their signing fees, the match bonuses and others presented in the international and national media, the local sportsmen and women who mostly pick up trifles do not like talking about their income. And from football to basketball to handball and others, Ivorian sportsmen and women are in the throes of the economic crisis. While with football the clubs continue best they can to pay monthly salaries, majority of the disciplines stop only at signing fees and winning bonuses.

By Coulibaly D. Seydou

Published September 16, 2010 in Supersport.

Read the article translated to English Salaries for Ivorian sportsmen and women

Read the article in French Les salaires de misères des sportifs ivoiriens

Côte d’Ivoire’s national parks

An investigation in two parts by Jean Roche Kouamé

The Comoé : the supreme reign of the poachers

Classified as “World heritage” by UNESCO in 1983, the Comoé National Park (PNC) is currently among the endangered world heritage sites. For more than eight years, it has been left in the hands of poachers and plunderers. An investigation of a wealth threatened with extinction.

Published September 16, 2010 in L’Expression.

The Marahoué. Settlements and farms where animals and forests used to be

Settlements have sprung up like mushrooms on a dung heap. Though it has been classified as a world heritage by UNESCO, Marahoué resembles everything but a game and forest reserve. Clearing the place would not be an easy task.

Published September 17, 2010 in L’Expression.

Read the articles translated to English Côte d’Ivoire’s national parks

Read the articles in French La Comoé, le règne des braconniers et des clandestins. and La Marahoué. Des campements et des plantations à la place des animaux et de la flore