Photograph by Peter DiCampo/VII Mentor Program

Cocoa in the Shade of War

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    The story of cocoa, once used in the Aztec court as currency and first tasted by Europeans centuries ago, has always been rife with conflict. The most recent chapter in the cocoa bean's history is taking place in Ivory Coast, which now provides 40 percent of the world's crop. In the 1980s, migrant workers from across West Africa fueled its production. Then Ivory Coast's economy collapsed and violence over land rights exploded, displacing thousands and culminating in a 10-year civil war. The country now has a new government. Attacks continue, however, and thousands still live in refugee camps. With demand booming worldwide, cocoa production continues apace. — Brent Murray

    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.

    Photograph by Peter DiCampo/VII Mentor Program
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    A farmer looks over cocoa seedlings on a farm outside Pinhou.

    Photograph by Peter DiCampo/VII Mentor Program
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    Farmers burn the land to clear it for a new planting season outside San Pedro.

    Photograph by Peter DiCampo/VII Mentor Program
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    Cocoa pods grow on farmland near Pinhou.

    Photograph by Peter DiCampo/VII Mentor Program
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    Rotten cocoa pods on a plantation in Faye.

    Photograph by Peter DiCampo/VII Mentor Program
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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.

    Photograph by Peter DiCampo/VII Mentor Program
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    A group of Dozo, or traditional hunters, pose 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.

    Photograph by Peter DiCampo/VII Mentor Program
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    A woman who was the victim of sexual violence during last year's post-election conflict in Duekoue.

    Photograph by Peter DiCampo/VII Mentor Program
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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.

    Photograph by Peter DiCampo/VII Mentor Program
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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.

    Photograph by Peter DiCampo/VII Mentor Program
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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.

    Photograph by Peter DiCampo/VII Mentor Program
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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.

    Photograph by Peter DiCampo/VII Mentor Program
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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.

    Photograph by Peter DiCampo/VII Mentor Program
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    A mural on the wall at Choco Ivoire, an Ivorian company that processes cocoa butter, in San Pedro.

    Photograph by Peter DiCampo/VII Mentor Program
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    Employees of Choco Ivoire at work as a new harvest of cocoa arrives and processing begins.

    Photograph by Peter DiCampo/VII Mentor Program
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    Workers clean machinery at Choco Ivoire in preparation for the new harvest of cocoa to arrive and processing to begin.

    Photograph by Peter DiCampo/VII Mentor Program
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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.

    Photograph by Peter DiCampo/VII Mentor Program
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    Cocoa butter on a table after being tested for its quality at Choco Ivoire.

    Peter DiCampo was traveling with a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

    Photograph by Peter DiCampo/VII Mentor Program