…Says FDA Should Take The Lead Hugely

MONROVIA-A Professor at the University of Liberia has recommended the reinforcement of the afforestation and reforestation activities at the Forestry Development Authority (FDA).

According to Dr. Johnson Jlokpeh Geply, said policy remains fundamentally important in the sustainable management of the forest.

He expressed disappointment saying that following the cessation of the devastating war and the subsequent restoration of peace in the country, there have never been afforestation and reforestation programs.
Dr. Johnson Jlokpeh Geply, an Assistant Professor at the Department of Forestry, University of Liberia said the absence of the reintroduction of the afforestation and reforestation programs sharply undermines the principle of sustainable management of the forest.

He said forestry is not solely the management of wild animals, but also the conservation of plants, particularly the forest that serves as a home as well as a source of forage for the animals adding, “for no forests or vegetation, no wild animals.” He expressed concern that nearly two decades after the restoration of peace in Liberia, successive FDA managements have never implemented any reforestation and afforestation projects thereby allowing logging companies to continue to cut down the forest/trees of Liberia without replanting, something he said totally violates the principle and practice of sustainable forest management. He also expressed disappointment that even the Annual Tree Planting Scheme that is slated for May each year has since died.

Dr. Geply who also teaches Natural Resource Management and Land Use at the University of Liberia Graduate School of Environmental Studies and Climate made these and other statements, while serving as keynote speaker at this year’s World Wildlife and Pangolin Day held on March 3, 2023 at the Forestry Training Institute (FTI) in Tubmanburg, Bomi County. Although FDA collaborates with a number of partners, Dr.  Geply wants FDA to hugely take the lead in all conservation activities, a paradigm shift that would see a robust revolution in the protection of the forest and its habitats as opposed to knowing the truth, yet doing something counterproductive.

Dr. Geply noted that nature conservation is the moral philosophy that is focused on protecting species from extinction, maintaining, and restoring habitats, enhancing ecosystem services, and protecting biological diversity.  He said the word wildlife comprises both wild animals and plants existing in their natural habitats or natural places of occurrence. He continued, “This must be made clear because in times past people, even including natural resource professionals, meant only wild animals when they used the term ‘wildlife’”. However, with increased awareness today, the term “wildlife” is fairly being used to refer to untamed plant and animal species in the wild.

According to him, these include terrestrial and aquatic species. He said our very existence depends on wildlife, e.g., for food, shelter, medicine, recreation, just to mention a few benefits yet every generation of humans tends to use these resources as if they are the last on planet earth.  He said it’s against this background the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) headquartered at Geneva, Switzerland was birthed in Washington, D.C., the USA, 3 March 1973 to prevent further destruction or extinction of wildlife species engendered by humankind’s insatiable appetite for comfort and wealth.

He stressed the relevance of sustained partnership to include the (1) community people who are the custodians of the resources and therefore alternative livelihood opportunities should be provided for them and financial benefits shared with them, (2) donors who provide the funding and, for the money to keep flowing in, there has to be transparency and accountability by forestry agencies, 3) civil society organizations (CSOs) or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who are essentially implementers of projects funded by donors in the name of countries – they are simply a support group and therefore should not take the lead in wildlife management; and (4) the last but not least category – forestry/wildlife agencies.

The keynote speaker went on to say that the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), being the agency mandated by the Government of Liberia to manage the forest resources should always take the lead by guiding, regulating as well as coordinating the activities of the other three categories of partners, adding, “The donors and NGOs know it. They may not be interested in doing so either; however, they are compelled by the ‘moral philosophy’ of wildlife conservation to do so because FDA has failed to carry out its responsibilities accordingly.”  He concluded by saying that most of the problems being experienced today in the forest sector are attributed to what he called “putting a round peg in a square hole” meaning using the wrong people to do the right thing, something he said is not just workable in any professional setting.

Traditionally, February 18, 2023 of each year is observed also as World Pangolin Day and the African Pangolin Working Group and many other pangolin advocates worldwide are not relenting in their concerted efforts to rescue these animals and safeguard their place in the ecosystem. Pangolins are endangered animals and continue to suffer from illegal trade and exploitation.

According to a recent report,  “an estimated one million of these wonderful animals have been, and continue to be, harvested from the wild in African and Asian countries to meet the high demands for their scale, skin, blood, and even fetuses that are believed to have several different uses both in fashion, traditional medicine, and cooking.” Conservationists and animal lovers plan a global celebration of these precious scaly mammals. March 3 of each year is internationally declared as World Wildlife Day and it’s a United Nations International day to celebrate all the world’s wild animals and plants and the contribution that they continue to make to our lives and the health of the planet.

This date was chosen as it is the birthday of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, signed on March 3, in 1973. This World Wildlife Day is also a celebration of CITES as it turns 50 years -and also in recognition of the work CITES has done in global collaborative efforts in wildlife conservation.

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