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Africa
21 Mar 2017

CEPF investment in West Africa shines spotlight on Liberia forests

Sustainable forest management is everyone's business. Forests are indispensable for life, therefore he who plants a tree, plants life.

Section of an intact forest in the Guinean Forests © Mariana Cavalho
Section of an intact forest in the Guinean Forests © Mariana Cavalho
By Jude Fuhnwi

Civil society organisations active in the field of natural resource management in Liberia now have a chance to save forests, recognise its potentials and protect the countless benefits that these woodlands provide to the lives of local communities in the West African state.

Stakeholders representing at least 28 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Liberia welcomed the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund's grant portfolio in the Guinean Forests of West Africa Hotspot on Friday, 17 March 2017 during an engagement workshop organised on the sidelines of the international day of forests being celebrated this 21 March. This biodiversity conservation meeting established contact with all actors in Liberia, especially civil society organisations working to protect and conserve nature.

“The Forests of Liberia represent a significant chunk of the remaining forest cover in the Guinean Forests of West Africa Hotspot and the threats to these forests are many and growing in intensity. But there are also many emerging opportunities for the various actors to adopt a multi-stakeholder approach, in their efforts to identify and implement durable solutions to these threats,” said Tommy Garnett, Team Leader of the BirdLife International/Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund’s (CEPF) Regional Implementation Team (RIT) for the Guinean Forests of West Africa.

Participants of the biodiversity stakeholder engagement workshop in Liberia ©  CEPF GFWA RIT

 

Participants at the workshop described the event as a timely and significant opportunity for them to step up conservation efforts in the country and protect wildlife which is largely dependent on the country’s rich but degrading forest resources.

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Liberia still holds one of the last strongholds of intact forests in West Africa. However, data from Global Forest Watch, a forest monitoring site, show that the country lost about 4.4% of its forest cover from 2001 to 2012, measuring nearly 400, 000 hectares, at an average rate of 9,000 hectares per year. This rapid loss according to the forest experts, has reduced Liberia’s intact forest by about a third.

Forests in Liberia are important habitats for many of West Africa’s unique species of animals and plants, yet, actions for forests have remained irregular and insufficient. Forest communities also rely on them for livelihood and other economic benefits. Responses to logging and deforestation among other threats cannot be effective or protect forests unless they are considered a priority and given specific attention.

“Sustainable forest management is everyone's business and forests are indispensable for life," said Muyang Achah, Small Grants Manager for RIT.

More than a decade ago, Liberia began a forest sector reform process, which included a review of all existing logging concession claims. But this has not prevented large areas of the country's forests from being cleared, logged, fragmented and overhunted.

The RIT is eager to contribute to the efforts of the Government of Liberia, its bilateral partners and other stakeholders, especially civil society organisations and private sector actors, to reverse this and consider alternative strategies to help conserve Liberia’s forests.

A broad range of CSOs will be benefitting from grants provided by the RIT in this global diversity hotspot in West Africa, to implement comprehensive and results-focused initiatives that commit to preserve biodiversity in the country. Liberia is home to a significant part of West Africa’s remaining rainforest, occupying about 43% of the Upper Guinean forest.

The meeting with civil society organisations in Liberia’s capital provided a platform to share and update information about the status of biodiversity conservation in the country and also introduced the RIT investment in the entire Guinean Forests of West Africa biodiversity hotspot. It focused on how civil society actors and other stakeholders working in the country can benefit from the grants and contribute to conservation efforts in the hotspot.

“It was a RIT driven effort to sustain the management of protected areas and biodiversity in general. There is a will from the government and civil society organisations to conserve those forests. The laws exist but the resources to enforce the law are not sufficient, posing a major challenge,” explained Francois Kamano, sub-regional project officer of the RIT.

The growing challenges facing forests and biodiversity in Liberia and across the hotspot now require renewed commitment and much more action at local level. Some of the key challenges that the forest sector in Liberia face daily include illegal logging which has ruined a large section of forests in the country, and poaching remains a major threat to wildlife.

 “Livelihood support for local communities around protected areas, insufficient funds to hire adequate staff to work in existing protected areas, logistical and equipment issues are urgent needs that Liberia requires to conserve 30% of the 4.9 million hectares of her forest estates. At the moment, only about 10% is under full protection,” said Theophilus V. Freeman, Technical Manager of Conservation at Forestry Development Authority in Liberia.

The RIT is presently active in all 11 countries of the Guinean Forests of West Africa hotspot and responsible for managing the BirdLife/CEPF investment for a period of five years (2016 – 2021).

 

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund is a joint initiative of l'Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation.