MONROVIA-As part of effort to save Liberia’s remaining large natural forest and biodiversity, the government of Liberia through the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) has launched a new project that sets the framework to gazette the Foya Proposed Protected Area into a National Park.
The Foyah proposed forest is located in western Liberia covering several hectares of land that include many biodiversity and wildlife species unique to science.
The new project named and styled” The Save West Africa’s Last Intact Forest Project” is being implemented by the Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia (SCNL), Liberia’s oldest conservation group with funding from Rainforest Trust.
The Foya Proposed Protected Area covers both Gbarpolu and Lofa Counties and is Co-managed by SCNL
Launching the project Wednesday, December 15,2021, in Bopolu, Gbarpolu County, FDA Deputy Managing Director for Operations, Joseph Tarlue called on Citizens of the County to embrace the project.
Mr. Tarlue noted that the project will help transform the Foya proposed Protected Area into a National Park for immense environmental and economic benefits not only for Lofa and Gbarpolu Counties but the entire Country.
The Coordinator of the Save West Africa’s Last Intact Forest Project, Jerry Garteh says the area has many unique biodiversity species
He told the gathering, that the Liberian Government through the FDA is very much keen to avoid deforestation by setting aside more and more of Liberia’s rich and densely rain forest.
However, the Gbarpolu County Superintendent, Kayeh Saah welcomed the government plans to reduce deforestation to zero percent and encouraged his kinsmen to accept the idea of transforming the Foya Protected Area into a National Park.
Mr. Saah pledged to support efforts by the Forestry Development Authority and the Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia in whatever way possible to make the Foya Forest into a National Park.
Social Corporate Responsibility
Responding to concerns being raised by forest communities, the Gbarpolu Superintendent clarified that NGOs are not under obligation to build roads, clinics and even school or town hall.
He reminded the locals that NGOs can only help based on their financial strengthen but it’s government that is directly obligated to its people in providing social benefits.
Saah encouraged the people of Gbarpolu to work alongside with the government and its partners to ensure that all processes leading to the legalization of the forest are absorbed.
Also speaking, FDA new Conservation Technical Manager, Jerry Nyema said the local people deserve more in terms of infrastructure development and promised to work along with the FDA management team to lobby with the legislature and the donor community to rally fund for local infrastructure development.
Mr. Nyema maintained that the time has come for the Liberia to engage program that will ensure sustainable development for forest communities.
He however decried the way local people in the Southeast are given out Liberia’s forest to Burkinabe Coco farmers and argued that it must stop.
“People will not be undermining our effort of protecting the Country’s forest in the name of local community ownership, it is wrong”, he adds.
Some Chiefs and Elders at the Forum called on FDA to introduce new and effect program that will ensure that the establishment of National Parks in the Country be accompanied with road development, clinics and schools in their various communities.
“We have given out our forest but we are not getting the benefits that we deserve so we want to say in the public manner that more need to be done for us.
“If we cannot get the kind of benefits, we so desire we will take some approach that will ensure that we compiled the government and SCNL to do the right thing”.
“We are not against the idea but what we want is for us who were depending on the forest before SCNL coming in do all it can to create a more sustainable program for us”
“Again, we want for the name of the Forest “Proposed Foya Protected Area” be review to collectively select one name”
The Coordinator of the Save West Africa’s Last Intact Forest Project, Jerry Garteh said following a biological survey in the Proposed Foya protected Area, it was scientifically proven that the forest contained some of the world endangered animal and tree species, including elephant.
“If the Forest is transformed into a national park, the animals and trees will be protected while at the same time SCNL will provide job opportunity for the forest communities.
We have a very good management plan and what we want from you the local people are for you people to cooperate with our plan than the benefit will in return come to you people”, Mr. Garteh told the locals.
“ We will work closely with the FDA to always do the right things for you the local people”.
The Foya Proposed Protected Area covers both Gbarpolu and Lofa Counties and is Co-managed by SCNL.
Foya is the largest of the proposed protected areas. It consists of moist evergreen forest and moist semi-deciduous forests. The site includes about 44,000 ha of community forest.