ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML), represented by its Environmental Department, and the Co-Management Committee of the East Nimba Nature Reserve (ENNR), have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed at conserving and protecting the ENNR.
Renowned for its biodiversity and high levels of endemic species ArcelorMittal Liberia annually provides huge financial and some logistical support to different programs for the protection of the ENNR.
The Rural Integrated Center for Community Empowerment (RICCE) and the Agriculture Relief Services (ARS), two non-governmental organizations receive grants from AML to support biodiversity programs aimed at minimizing the destruction of the forest and its endangered wildlife.
AML also supports Community Forest Management Bodies governing the Zor, Blei, and Gbar forests to keep them protected from hunting and farming activities. It can be recalled that in July this year, the Environmental Department of ArcelorMittal Liberia provided three motorbikes to heads of those forest groups to aid their movements to report accurately.
At the signing of the MoU, Alvin Poure, AML’s Environmental Manager said the agreement was just an extension of the support which AML has been providing over the years.
AML believes that supporting sustainable natural resource management and creating the capacity to manage these resources over the long term and over geographic areas that extend beyond the direct project footprint forms part of its corporate responsibility and will benefit Liberia.
The MoU, among other things, seeks to ensure the successful protection and conservation of the ENNR through improved capacity building for the implementation of the Protected Area Management Plan; provide the technical support required to operationalize and make effective the ENNR’s new management plan, and provide a suite of interventions that will build capacity around several key themes for the ENNR.
Other themes include general management, monitoring, innovative finance, climate change adaptation, transboundary collaboration and coordination that could be transformed into the establishment of a Peace Park with Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire, education and outreach, biodiversity conservation awareness, infrastructural development, and logistical support, and enhancing law enforcement including patrol. The remaining areas are surveillance, and prosecution of violators of forest laws, integration of cultural values into management approach, ecotourism, and research and biomonitoring.
Under the MoU, the Co-Management Committee (CMC), among several activities, will focus on planning, budget control, monitoring, and reporting of expenditures and activities; takes responsibility for the daily operations, focus on advanced patrol systems along with park rangers and biomonitoring data collection; conduct or hold collaborative meetings with partners, and revisit or revise the CMC structure along with the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and AML.
AML, on the other hand, will provide funding for the annual operational budget; provide support for training ENNR rangers and Park Biologists, provide support for training that will focus on enhancing the understanding of the National Wildlife, conservation, and Protected Area Management Law, and provide the support that will introduce a program of capacity building for local lawyers and judicial officers acting on behalf of the CMC in close coordination with the FDA lawyers amongst others.
Collectively, ArcelorMittal and the CMC in the MoU agree to comply with all applicable anti-corruption laws, including those in the jurisdictions where they are registered and the jurisdictions where the agreement will be performed, and to comply with ArcelorMittal’s Anti-corruption procedure, which forms an integral part of the policies and rules.
The annual operating budget in the MoU is USD $168,504 (One hundred sixty-eight thousand five hundred and four) and in the breakdown of said budget, $34, 800 is set for stipends for the Chairman of the CMC, Data Processing Clerk, and 12 ordinary members. The Co-Chair of the committee, the Data Processing Clerk, and 12 ordinary members among other areas of expenditure, are to receive monthly $260, $240, and $180. Each member of the 12 ordinary members is entitled to the $180.00.
The Chairman of the Co-Management Committee, Saye Thompson, thanked ArcelorMittal Liberia for making it possible to continue the forest management work, noting that they and AML have had a series of discussions aimed at solidifying the relationship so that the conservation work will not come to a halt.
“If ArcelorMittal is willing to work with us to support this remaining area, it is good we talk to them to help to continue this work,” said Mr. Thompson, stressing further, “We need your continuous support as you started it earlier.”
Grace Barrasso, Vice President for Environmental and Sustainable Development of ArcelorMittal, expressed appreciation for being a part of the signing ceremony, assuring that the corporate group of ArcelorMittal is willing to fully support the Biodiversity Conservation Program and the efforts being made in Liberia.
Mr. Vanii Kiazolu, Manager for Community Relations, also indicated that AML extending support to the Biodiversity Program was a good investment because the work of the BCP is not only about Liberia but for the world as the ENNR and other forests in Liberia are part of the upper Guinea Forest that the world relies on in the fight against climate change.