The Global Environment Facility Council has approved a $74.3 million project to boost conservation and restoration of globally important forests in northwest Liberia that face heightened deforestation threats. The project will also improve livelihoods of local communities facing high poverty rates.
The five-year project, part of the GEF-funded and World Bank-led Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration (FOLUR) Impact Program, will strengthen land use planning to identify and zone essential areas for forest protection and restoration, and for sustainable production of food crops, oil palm, and cocoa.
Funded by a $7.3 million GEF grant and $66.9 million co-financing from partners, the project will be executed by the Liberia Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Conservation International as the GEF implementing agency, alongside other partners.
“Sustainably integrating oil palm, cocoa, and other agriculture investments into forested landscapes in NW Liberia poses challenges, but offers a proving ground for piloting innovative, integrative approaches that will deliver model progress towards sustainable development,” said Wilson K. Tarpeh, EPA Executive Director.
“Liberia is at a crossroad as it seeks to balance the urgent need for jobs, food, and economic development with conservation and sustainable use of the country’s natural resources. New integrated development models are needed to meet these economic objectives while maintaining essential ecosystems,” Peter Mulbah, Conservation International Liberia Country Director said.
Housing one of the largest remaining forest blocks in the Guinean Forests of West Africa, the 2.7 million hectare northwest Liberia landscape is a global conservation priority for carbon and biodiversity, as well as key ecosystem services such as freshwater provision for more than a million Liberians. Its biodiversity includes critically endangered forest elephants and western chimpanzees, while its carbon stocks are estimated to be among the highest globally.
Spanning five counties — Grand Cape Mount, Lofa, Bomi, Gbarpolu, and Bong — the landscape is home to an estimated 900,000 people, many of whom live in poverty. Rapid expansion of commercial oil palm plantations into intact forests, shifting cultivation, and charcoal production are threatening vital forests.
The project will lead a participatory and inclusive development of land use plans at the national, landscape, and community levels to zone areas for forest protection and restoration as well as for sustainable agricultural production.
To secure intact forests, the project will advance efforts to create the 99,538 hectare Wologizi Proposed Protected Area by developing the necessary documents for submission to the country’s Cabinet and Legislature for consideration.
The project will also improve land-use practices across 350,000 hectares and restore 15,000 hectares of degraded areas that are crucial for ecosystem connectivity and integrity. These efforts will directly benefit at least 50,000 people and remove an estimated 36.1 million tons of carbon from the atmosphere. Local communities will be integrated into sustainable oil palm and other value chains to improve their livelihoods.
The project’s co-financing partners include the EPA, Forestry Development Authority, Liberian Institute of Statistics and Geographical Information Services Liberia Land Authority, Mano Manufacturing Company, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Society for Conservation of Nature in Liberia, Conservation International, Fauna and Flora International, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, and the Ministry of Agriculture.
The FOLUR Impact Program was designed to improve food production systems and land use for the health of people, the planet, and economies. It promotes nature-positive, carbon-neutral, and low-pollution supply chains from production to consumption.
Mohamed Bakarr, Lead Environmental Specialist at the GEF, described the project as an important part of the overall FOLUR effort. “This requires the kind of work being proposed in Liberia, which incorporates nature-based solutions for healthy food production and to benefit local communities in their roles as stewards of these lands,” he said.
Additional information about the project is available here.
About the Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia
The Environmental Protection Agency of the Republic of Liberia is the principal authority for implementing the national environmental policy and sustainable management law for the protection of natural resources in Liberia. As a commitment to the environment, the Government of Liberia established the EPA in 2003 under the EPA Act. The Agency became a fully functioning entity in 2006 with a board of directors and Policy Council. As the lead government environment protection Agency, the EPA has been charged with the executive authority over all environmental activities and programmes relating to environmental management in Liberia.
About Conservation International
Conservation International works to protect the critical benefits that nature provides to people. Through science, partnerships, and fieldwork, Conservation International is driving innovation and investments in nature-based solutions to the climate crisis, supporting protections for critical habitats, and fostering economic development that is grounded in the conservation of nature. Conservation International works in 30 countries around the world, empowering societies at all levels to create a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable planet. Follow Conservation International's work on Conservation News, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
Conservation International contact:
George Ilebo, Technical Director, Conservation International-Liberia, Email: email@example.com