12 February 2019

Liberia: Chicken Farm Community Joins Fight to Protect Mangrove

Residents complained that some unknown individuals are aggressively destroying the Mangrove trees.

A group of community dwellers in Chicken Farm community, Jacob's Town, outside Monrovia, has joined the fight to protect 35 percent of Liberia's mangroves along the Mesurado river through sustainable use of the forest.

The group of citizens, named "Chicken Farm Neighborhood Dwellers," has called on the government and its international partners to do more to prevent flooding, sand mining, and the destruction of wildlife. The group also wants government to put an end to the massive destruction of mangroves along the Mesurado river.

In a letter addressed to Nathaniel Blama, Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), dated January 30, 2019, a copy of which is in the possession of this writer, the residents complained that some unknown individuals are aggressively destroying mangrove trees for the purpose of selling swampland and fetching wood.

The community has repeatedly suffered from property damage as a result of flooding when the Mesurado river overflows.

The signatories are Mrs. Masue E. Johnson, Mr. Isaac G. Redd, Nathaniel Sale, Ms. Hawa Boley, Messrs Varney Boikai, Bettee Forkpa, and Edilus Barbue.

Mangroves support a great variety of swamp animals in the wetlands, but because of the rapid destruction of mangrove trees, shorebirds that were usually seen making their homes in the branches and taking refuge among the roots are finding it difficult to survive.

The group has also appealed to the authorities to speed up the Marine Security along the river's bank, as safety measures in favor of tons of big and small marine species that thrive along the mangrove's coastline and muddy flats.

The group said the number of monkeys and crocodiles found resting along the mangrove-lined shores offer a great chance for tourist attraction.

Besides sheltering animals and birds, the residents explained that the mangroves also provide protected areas for fish, crabs, shrimps and all sorts of small critters.

The mangrove forest has been preventing the outflow of the river into the community and providing habitation for animals, but it is now being destroyed by people who are illegally selling swamp land.

The group has called for a speedy intervention by the authorities concerned, so as to avoid chaos between illegal land dealers, buyers, and sand miners.

Mr. Barbue, spokesperson of the residents, said the speedy intervention of the authorities will prevent misunderstanding among community dwellers.

There have been reports of a chaotic engagement between the so-called swamp owners and residents of the old road, Swagger-mo community and the Borbor Island, all along the Mesurado River.

Some residents of the Chicken Farm community, who claimed to represent over 500 residents, said the continued destruction of the mangrove is exposing the dry land to flood during the rainy season.

Additionally, they also complained that this illegal act could also pose a setback to Liberia's rich ecosystem, tourism and biodiversity by threatening species of the mangrove swamp and exposing them to the environment, putting children and inhabitants at greater risk.

A copy of the EPA's letter was sent to the Paynesville City Corporation, the Legislature, St. Francis Community Chairman, the Land Commission, the Liberia National Police (LNP), and the International Conservative Group.

It may be recalled that the threat to wetlands is posed mainly by discarded waste, over hunting and fishing as well as the harvesting of wood fuel, particularly in coastal mangroves. Such waste, including but not limited to plastic bags, medical waste, human feces, and dirty or used fuel, threatens marine species in various wetlands.

Environmentalists and other concerned stakeholders have consistently called for urgent practical action to protect wetlands from abuse, according to observers.

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