FDA, SCNL, and WCF Hold National Consultation on Three PPAs

GoL officials commit to creating new national parks, hope for livelihood alternatives for forest-edge communities

The Government of Liberia (GoL), through the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), the Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia (SCNL), and the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation (WCF)on Wednesday, June 21, 2023, held a National Consultation on Kpo, Foya, and Krahn-Bassa Proposed Protected Areas (PPAs). The well-attended high-profile meeting was graced by senators, representatives, and superintendents from the South, North, and Western parts of Liberia, where the PPAs are expected to be established. In attendance also were traditional leaders, conservationists, representatives from civil society organizations, and representatives from international partners such as USAID, the World Bank, British Embassy, etc.

During the meeting, FDA presented an overview of the steps to establish PPAs in Liberia and the relevance of these steps to the establishment of Kpo, Foya, and Krahn-Bassa PPAs; SCNL and WCF presented their pre-gazettement activities and key content of the draft gazettement packages for Kpo, Foya and Krahn-Bassa PPAs. After the presentations, key questions and concerns from the representatives, senators, superintendents, and civil society organizations about livelihood options for forest edge communities were raised, and those questions and concerns were addressed by Hon. C. Mike Doryen, Managing Director, FDA.

Before the presentations, several officials of government, and international partners made special remarks and special statements. Hon. Joseph J. Tally, Deputy Managing Director for operations, FDA, welcomed the guests and appreciated President George M. Weah for the leadership shown to ensure new PPAs are established. “The country enjoys peace and tranquility, and on behalf of the management of the FDA, we’re glad to welcome everyone to the National Consultation Meeting of the three PPAs (Krahn-Bassa, Kpo, and Foya). We believe our gathering here is to help the FDA carries out its mandate of managing the forest under the ‘Three-C Policy’ (Commercial, Community & Conservation). We hope by the end of the discussions, these proposed areas will be set aside as national parks, under the mandate of setting aside 30% of Liberia’s forest cover,” he said.

Mr. Jerry Yonmah, Technical Manager, Conservation, FDAgave the overview of the meeting. He said the National Consultation Meeting was a milestone in achieving the 1.5 million hectares of forests for protection. He shared that the FDA contracted SCNL, and WCF under the Liberia Forest Sector Project (LFSP)-funded by the Government of Norway to separately gazette the Kpo & Foya and Krahn-Bassa PPAs.  “Today, the FDA in collaboration with its partners, SCNL and WCF has completed several steps leading to the gazettement of the Kpo, Foya, and Krahn-Bassa PPAs, and has invited you to participate in the national validation of the process after holding a series of discussions with communities for the PPAs…. This is about Liberia, our children, and the larger society. The FDA hopes you, the [officials of government] will validate the process to be submitted to President George Weah.

Hon. Doryen’s special remarks appreciated local authorities and partners for the efforts put in place for the establishment of the PPAs. He said over 70 years ago, the Liberian Forest Sector, basically, was into commercial logging, but as years have gone by under then president, William V. S. Tubman, who declared Liberia’s forests as  ‘national forest,” things have changed: “There was a myth conservation can’t develop, so the people turned to commercial logging. As it is seen, that is not the case anymore, there is a potential for carbon trade which will generate revenue for the communities, and the government”.

He expressed joy for the National Consultation Meeting and extended gratitude to international partners, the World Bank, USAID, the Government of Norway, and civil society organizations for their support.

For his part, Mr. Harrison S. Karnwea Sr., Chairman, Board of Directors, FDA, said it has been six to seven years of not having a meeting on the creation of a new PPA, and to have seen everyone coming together for the establishment of new PPAs was good for the country and people. “No conservation can be successful if the local leadership and people are not involved. There should be a meaningful process in creating wealth for the people residing around the forest areas to make conservation much more meaningful”.

Professor Wilson K. Tarpeh, Executive Director, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Thanked President George M. Weah for his leadership, including the superintendents, the FDA, and partners for the work done so far in the gazettement of the three proposed parks. He said Liberia is important when it comes to the forest, because of the carbon credit, an asset he says Liberia has that the international partners want.  

On the provision of livelihood options for forest-edge communities, he said, “We have to be careful how we handle this…we are a member of the Paris Accord; we have to act responsibly. The point of moving forward is to allow the people to take ownership of the forest. To conserve the forest, a viable livelihood alternative must be provided for the people…this is to our international partners, we can conserve, but provide for the people”.

Hon. Lee Nagbe Chea, Sir., Superintendent, Sinoe County, in a special statement, said he was happy to be a part of the event and believes superintendents from other counties are happy for the PPAs. “I say thank you to the FDA and partners for the work. The proposed names of the PPAs need to be changed as recommended by the citizens. We welcome the establishment of the parks, we’re willing and available to keep working with the FDA, and partners, for the establishment of the Krahn-Bassa PPA”.

Chief Zanzan Karwor, National Chairman, Chiefs and Elders Council of Liberia also thanked the civil society organizations, international partners, and FDA for the work. He said local leadership at all times must continuously be a part of the processes until it is fully completed.

Loretta A. Pope Kae, Chairperson, National Civil Society Organization of Liberia, in her special statement, said civil society organizations over the years, have pushed for the National Forestry Law to be reformed, standards to promote the rights of communities, and to see more tangible through livelihood options, infrastructure, income generation, and to see more communities serving as co-managers. “The benefits of the communities must be clearly listed in all the processes… The CSO remains committed to working along with the FDA, partners in ensuring what is meant for the good of the communities is achieved”.

Kate Thomson, Charge’ d’affaires, British Embassy, said the United Kingdom (UK) has been providing funding to protect the forests. On livelihood options, Madam Thomson said there should be a way to help communities get a better livelihood alternative for a better living, through proper farming practices, etc.  “Even though Western countries are depending on Liberia’s forest, the GoL must ensure when they make promises, they must abide by their commitment to the communities. There is a need for communities and governments to preserve their forests…because there are people coming from outside to destroy the forests, and the government and people must fight back to keep their forests protected,” she stressed.

Douglas Graham, Biodiversity Specialist, Consultant, World Bank, said the LFSP project ends on June 30th, 2023; thanked the Government of Norway for funding the LFSP, through the FDA and the World Bank’s role in working with the government during the implementation of the project.

Couvodor Govio, National Resource Officer, USAID, “Thanked FDA for the event, and expressed happiness because of Liberia’s efforts in getting the 30% forest land preserve for better conservation and eco-tourism.