Gola spared from logging
Gola rainforest, one of Africa's top biodiversity sites, is to be managed to benefit local communities, rather than being logged, thanks to a ground-breaking project implemented by the Government of Sierra Leone in co-operation with two BirdLife Partners: the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (CSSL) and the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK).
The 75,000 ha Important Bird Area (IBA) forest will be protected from legal and illegal logging. Local people from seven chiefdoms have been recruited by the project to patrol the reserve, and will have a key role in managing the project. The RSPB and CSSL are working with the Government to secure the logging rights to Gola, and are financing development projects such as the construction and repair of schools and other community buildings that will directly benefit up to 100,000 local people. A fund will be established to meet the cost of managing the forest for biodiversity for the long term, and to support continuing community development programmes.
His Excellency Alhaji Dr Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, President of Sierra Leone, commented: "This is a new approach in forest protection that will address not only the protection of the forest and its biodiversity, but will also provide sustainable benefit to the local community in perpetuity."
"This project will benefit both people and wildlife. CSSL and the RSPB are looking forward to working alongside the government to help protect this remarkable forest. Our goal is to see Gola managed by local people as a national park by 2010." —Daniel Siaffa, Head of CSSL
More than 270 bird species, including 14 globally threatened are found at Gola. They include Rufous Fishing-owl Scotopelia ussheri, Gola Malimbe Malimbus ballmanni (both Endangered), and the Green-tailed Bristlebill Bleda eximius and White-necked Picathartes Picathartes gymnocephalus (both Vulnerable), the latter a charismatic species recognised as a symbol of African conservation.
Gola is also important for threatened mammals including pygmy hippopotamus, forest elephant and zebra duiker.
The Gola rainforest project was established in response to the government of Sierra Leoneís commitment both to the UNís Millennium Development Goals of reducing poverty and promoting sustainable development, and to the international Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). On 23 March 2006 the government of Sierra Leone announced its backing for the scheme, at the meeting of the international Convention on Biological Diversity in Brazil.