Rainforest Trust Africa Strategist Visits SCNL

                        …ensuring Liberia’s Forest is protected

The Government of Liberia has committed to establishing a network of protected areas covering at least 30% of the existing forest area (National Forestry Reform Law 2006). At present, only 10% of the existing forest area is protected. Foya Forest represents an additional 2.9%. Foya forms a substantial share (28.5%) of the Greater Gola Landscape which straddles the Liberia/Sierra Leone border and forms the largest remnant of the Upper Guinea Forest Biodiversity Hotspot and Eco-region. At least 70% of the Upper Guinea Forest has been lost and the remainder is highly fragmented. Liberia holds the largest remaining portion (42).

 In contribution to keeping Africa’s last forest intact, Rainforest Trust has provided funding through SCNL to support the Government of Liberia in the gazettement of the Foya Proposed Protected area and the support to the community’s forest establishment around the Gola and Foya Forest.

In an effort to understand the implementation of the project in terms of the progress and challenges, Dr. Antoine F. Marchal, Rainforest Trust Africa Strategist visited the Society for the conservation of Nature of Liberia (SCNL), the |Wild Chimpanzee Foundation and Government partner. On the 23rd of January, Mr. Marchal met with the SCNL’s team to get an understanding of the Rainforest projects that are being implemented in the Gola Forest National Park’s communities and the Foya Proposed protected. In that meeting were:  James P. Mulbah-Project coordinator-SCNL, Michael E. Taire-Program Manager-SCNL, Alade Adeleke-RSPB Country Program Manager, Richard Hoff, II, -Rainforest Trust Project Coordinator. SCNL presented progress, challenges, and way forward on the two projects funded by Rainforest Trust in Gola and Foya, followed by a discussion on plans for future interventions in the forest sector of Liberia.

Part of the reason for Mr. Marchal’s visit was to see how Rainforest Trust can help to fill in the gaps or to develop new projects that could eventually support the current projects and other conservation-related projects in Liberia.  Mr. Michael E. Taire, SCNL Program Manager stressed that there is a need for us to begin thinking about how Rainforest Trust can continue from where LFSP will end for Kpo after the gazettement package is prepared. He also emphasized the need to begin looking into conserving or creating protection for the Mangroves and how government partners like Rainforest Trust and others need to support the government in terms of increasing manpower and capacity strengthening as more protected areas are being established with less manpower to protect these PAs.  Mr. Marchal said the points were valid and needed to be keenly looked at as he moves in the field to get a sense of the implantation of the projects.

On the 25th of January, Mr. Hoff and SCNL Loan Officer, Yuconjay Noyu Barchue accompanied Mr. Marchal to the field in the Foya Proposed Protected Area’s communities. The team visited a few communities, namely: Yandohun in Hassala clan, walahun, and Mbaloma in the Lukasu clan. The team was highly received by the people of Yandohun. During the meeting in Yandohun, the Town Chief Mr. Massaquoi Sualay welcomed the guest on behalf of the town.  In his remark, he praised and appreciated the SCNL Staff who always inform them about the Rainforest Trust-Foya Project and its activities.

The team was also welcomed by some Loan beneficiaries (women), headed by the Chairlady, Lusia Kamara. The women and the chief Elder of the town Mr. Boakai Moinena presented Kola-nuts and a chicken to the team as a sign of welcoming them traditionally. Mr. Marchel appreciated the women and the community dwellers for welcoming him and the team. Mr. Marchal said, “I am happy to see the level of collaboration between the SCNL and the people of Yandohun. This proves that the project is ongoing smoothly and is impacting the community dwellers positively”.

 The team also went into the forest for hiking along the mini-hydro that is supplying electricity to the people of Yandohun. They also visited three additional project communities in the Lukasu clan. The communities are Bondorwalahun I, Bondorwalahun II, and Mbaloma. The visit to these communities was very important because it gives a clear picture to the donor in understanding the project communities and how the impacts of the project are felt by the beneficiaries.

At the end of his visit to SCNL project sites, the Rainforest Trust Strategist praised the SCNL team and the communities for the level of work done in the field to get both the Foya Proposed Protected Area and Gola Forest National Park in the current state. He said that it was his responsibility to check and see that the projects supported by RFT are performing in line with the objectives and if not, he was keen to find solutions to any such challenges’.  At the end of his visit, he also voiced the ‘wiliness of Rainforest Trust to support SCNL in managing the gazettement package for the Kpo mountains’.