Liberia’s forest communities to take driver’s seat in management and conservation of natural resources in new project

The Forestry Development Authority together with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on 22 July 2022 ,launched a Community-Based Forestry and Protected Area Management (CFPM) project, funded by the Embassy of Swedish in Liberia. The project will focus on the Northwest and South-Eastern Priority Conservation landscape targeting forest communities in Gbarpolu, Grand Cape Mount, Grand Gedeh, Lofa, River Gee, Sinoe and Rivercess counties.

The project seeks to remove the barriers that hinder forest-dependent communities from effectively engaging in conservation efforts. It will develop and implement a sustainable model of community-based land and forest management with tangible socio-economic benefits for people who depend on forests for their survival. It will also promote social equity by supporting women-led initiatives and enhance women’s participation in decision-making and land-use activities.

“This project is important because it emphasizes building long-term resilience of communities. We are aiming to encourage the participation of forest-dependent communities in the conservation of forests and their resources in ways that will ensure that communities benefit financially through alternative sustainable livelihood activities. Our forests are not just for us; they are for Liberia and the world said Hon. C. Mike Doryen, the Managing Director of the Forest Development Authority (FDA).

With 69% of its landmass covered by forests, Liberia is recognized as one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. The country has more than 2,000 species of flower plants, more than 600 bird species and 125 mammal species. However, this rich biodiversity is under threat from extensive logging, commercial tree plantations, shifting slash and burn cultivation, heavy reliance on natural forests for fuelwood and timber, unsustainable harvest and use of non-timber forest products, and wildlife poaching.

The situation is further aggravated by inadequate livelihood opportunities and economic incentives for the communities to conserve forests and their limited participation in the management of natural resources, especially in protected areas. Conservation efforts typically restrict activities from which forest communities derive their income such as chainsaw milling, artisanal mining and hunting, antagonizing people who have no alternative sources of income.

“The partnership between the FDA, UNDP and FAO will leverage UNDP’s expertise on climate, forests and inclusive poverty reduction. A lot of our work involves combining environmental protection with livelihood improvements for people. The project will also tap into the FAO’s considerable expertise on forestry and their work on promoting responsible investments in agriculture and food systems,” said Stephen Rodriques, UNDP’s Resident Representative in Liberia.

Hailing the joint EU and UN approach to supporting forest management in Liberia, Swedish Ambassador to Liberia H.E. Urban Sjöström said “there is no individual future. Our future is common, and we must shape it together by coming together to find sustainable solutions with people,”

The project will strengthen the governance of community forest management in the country, build the capacity of forest regulatory institutions, and empower forest-dependent community producer organizations to undertake alternative sustainable livelihood activities. It will also create and strengthen resilient, low-emission land management approaches and promote non-timber forest product value chains by providing business development support for small-holder producers, and their cooperatives.

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