Liberia: ... As Reserved Forest Under Threat

The Liberia Forestry Development Authority(FDA), a state corporation established by an Act of the Legislature in 1976 with the mandate of ensuring the sustainable management and conservation of Liberia's forest and related natural resources for the benefit of current and future generations, seems not to be doing enough to protect the forest for which millions of dollars are being given by international partners.

According various international reports, the FDA has received thousands and millions of United States dollars for the conservation of the forest. But this does not seem to be the case as investigations have established that some of its forests are under threat with central office doing nothing significant to address the situation.

Rather, the directors and managers of FDA, take flights to attend international conferences to impress partners that they are working hard to protect the forest. Due to that, they have been described as an empty 'skull' only interested in getting huge cash and leaving the forest to go down.

A recent visit to the Nimba East reserved forest which is closer to the border with Guinea, showed that many wildlife are becoming extinct, as well as some trees, while others are gradually trying to destroy it.

Over five hours or walking in the forest along with some of the rangers, established that there is little or not enough support given to the people expected to patrol and take care of the forest.

"I can say that this forest is under threat. Many people come into this forest to hunt at times. So, if nothing much is done by central government in the next few years, I am afraid, we may not have any reserved forest, Grace Zansi, a ranger with FDA said.

This was buttressed by her boss, Mr. Korvah Vanyanbah, Chief warden park, East Nimba Reserved.

They said that the FDA was doing its best to ensure that the forests are protected. It requires more education and awareness

Many residents who live near the forests accused FDA of doing nothing to protect and there is no education.

"I have been in this place for over two years; not one day I saw any one come here to tell me about this forest here. If we were aware of it, we would also help to protect the forest. But that is not so. What makes me to stop over there is the red paint on the tree I saw," one Sylvester Gono, who was arrested near the park by the rangers while on the tour said, he has farm which has plantain, pepper, Coco, Pineapple among others.

"The FDA just dump the people here without doing anything for them. They just sit in Monrovia and say they are helping. Do you think if those people were patrolling here, I will not see them for the time I have been here farming?" he asked . Currently, there are some wildlife which locals are hunting.

"We have Red daggers(red and black deer), forest elephants, leopard, crocodile, monkeys and many more. But I am afraid the locals at times hunt them. As they hunt them, they go far away," the rangers said

"As they kill them, thy move to different places. Even some people from Guinea come here too. This is a huge forest which is very hard for few people to protect."

Some locals told this reporter that the FDA was only interested in getting money from both local and international partners.

Some of the rangers, the locals said do not even have adequate materials to patrol, let alone talk of good feeding.

One of the local farmers near the forest has this to say: "FDA is not doing anything to protect our forest. How will you send people from their homes and stay in the bush for months and pay them less than US$150.00?"

Paye Gbuzeh added, "The people are from home. The director them sit in Monrovia to only travel and collect huge sum of money from their international partners. One day, the time is coming, by the time they make up their mind, there will be no reserve forest in this country."

According to World bank report, about 68% of Liberia's land surface is covered by forests, making it the most forested country in West Africa; and the forests have a high biodiversity and commercial value. Liberia's forest sector contributes 10% to the national economy and serves as an important source of livelihoods and employment for more than a third of Liberia's population that lives in forested areas.

The rangers statements were buttressed by the same World Bank report.

"Despite these important contributions, Liberia's forests are under threat and need to be better managed; net forest depletion increased from 0.5% in 2005 to 32% in 2015 and the deforestation rate is estimated at 0.46% per year."

When the FDA central office was contacted for comments, there was no response. More reports in subsequent editions.

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