Africa

Guardian communities of Lofa-Mano forest, Liberia


Kongbor village Liberia Literacy program © P. Poncelet

During the last week of October, the regional implementation team (RIT) and CEPF Grant Director Peggy Poncelet visited the Gola Forest project site of large-grantee Society for Conservation of Nature in Liberia (SCNL).

SCNL has been active in Gola since 2010. The GolaMa project started in 2013 with funding from the European Union to create a corridor connecting the Gola Forest National Park, the proposed Foya Nature Reserve in Liberia, and the Gola Rainforest National Park in Sierra Leone.

The project area is of uniquely high biodiversity value with 60 globally threatened species and is also a critical wildlife corridor. Together these form the Greater Gola Landscape which represents the largest single block of remaining Upper Guinea Forest. CEPF has been supporting this project since 2018.

The GolaMA project is focused on the designation and operationalization of the community forests, and with CEPF support, this project further supports local communities to become active stewards of the natural resources which underpin their livelihoods.

More specifically, this CEPF project will empower and support 15 communities to engage in rainforest-friendly and climate-smart income generating activities in and around their community forests, build the capacity of two Community Forest Management Bodies (CFMBs) to govern community forests on behalf of their communities, support two CFMBs to manage a small loan scheme that supports community members to take up rainforest-friendly and climate-smart activities as well as securing resources for community forest management, and deepen the capacity of SCNL and the FDA to engage communities for biodiversity conservation.

The trip to the Gola Forest was a long and exciting one, along a difficult road strongly shaped by the still ongoing rains, rewarded by the views of a partly well preserved forest and the meetings with the local team and communities.


White bellied Pangolin © O. Langrand

The RIT and Ms. Poncelet were welcomed during the morning’s meeting with the powerful GolaMa song, its lyrics underlying the commitment and enthusiasm that the SCNL team implemented through this project: “Conservation is the message!”.

The SCNL team gave a brief summary of the outcomes so far. They confirmed the steps being taken to establish community forests, as well as the results of the alternative livelihoods being promoted to avoid the use and degradation of natural areas. These alternatives include cocoa, lowland rice, beekeeping and a loan scheme directed specifically towards women.

An interesting component of the project is the promotion of literacy. This element was added after the project began as it was proven difficult to engage some of the women in the loan scheme when these had basic literacy challenges. This component has since then successfully engaged other community members and is helping to build literacy as an essential basis to develop conservation and community management of natural resources.

The team then went on a field visit to the participating communities and smallholder plots, where feedback from the beneficiaries of the project was clearly positive. The project shows encouraging impacts and an essential focus on women. It is hoped that the community forest registration will be completed by the end of the project, and the communities will be able to thrive and sustainably manage their amazing forest resources for the next generations of Liberians.

 

- By CEPF

CEPF is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, and the World Bank.