Liberia: Illegal Mining Polluting Water in Grand Cape Mount County

Residents of Fula Town in Cape Mount told FrontPageAfrica that not only is the area being depleted of its gold through illegal mining activities, its waters are also being polluted through the illicit activity

Gola Forest, Cape Mount – Fula Town in Grand Cape Mount County is famously known for illegal mining activities. The town has a population of more than 500 inhabitants, but that number usually doubles or triples when there is the discovery of a deposit of gold or diamond according to locals.

According to them, the area is gradually being depleted of the gold and diamond minerals as a result of the illegal mining activities which are mainly been done by people from neighboring Sierra Leone even though Liberians are involved. 

This illegal has come with a cost to the local communities and the environment. 

Currently, residents in the area are faced with a huge challenge of getting safe and clean drinking water. The only creek near the town is being polluted daily.

In an interview with this newspaper, residents said they are constraint to travel 10 to 15-minute walk to fetch water for drinking and other personal use. They want a higher authority to stop the illegal miners because of the harm.

Augustine Pyne, a local resident of the camp, re-echoed how they have to walk to Gbandi Camp to get water because their water has turned very bad.

Like Pyne and those in Fula Camp, residents of other towns are faced with similar challenges. 

Subsistence Farming

Besides mining activities, subsistence farming is another activity causing deforestation. 

As a way to preserve the forest, residents including the miners, are being encouraged to stop hunting and farming in the highland forest, which could drive away species that are unique to Liberia. They are being encouraged to leave the things that are destroying the forests and move to another method to maintain their livelihoods.  

While they are being told the benefits and danger of maintaining the forest, they are being taught the other way of farming and giving them alternative that could present them a future in keeping the forest and preserve species that are protected.

Residents of Fornor Town, Kawalehum, Mano River Kongo, Kpelleh Village, King Stone Village, Duazah Village, Pepper Farm amongst others, are all benefiting from training in cocoa planting, lowland farming of rice and another crop.

New Method Welcome

Residents, who spoke to this newspaper welcomed the new method and appreciate calls for the preservation of the forest and species of animals. Boakai Kamara is a former hunter and farmer. He explained to FrontPageAfrica how his encounter with an NGO, Society for the Conservation of Nature in Liberia (SCNL), has transformed him and made him a more productive farmer.

SCNL is a USAID-funded West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change (WA BiCC) program. The program is teaching people how to do cocoa farming, grand nuts, rice, honey bees keeping, and small loan for women in some of the communities bordering the Gola National Park.

Kamara, who is now a peanuts farmer, said since the training, his style and methods of planting peanut has yielded more result in terms of production. 

He and others were taught to plant peanuts in roll. 

He promised to continue with the taught them by SCNL. He also promised to not return to highland farming. Other of Kamara’s colleagues, who spoke to this newspaper, are involved in honey bee preservation and swamp rice farming.

Liberia-Sierra Leone Sign MOU

Recently, the Governments of Liberia and Sierra Leone signed an MOU that will commit the two countries to protecting the Gola Transboundary Forest Landscape. Foreign Minister Gbehzhongar Findley signed on behalf of Liberia while Sam King Brima, Sierra Leone Deputy Minister of Agriculture signed for his country. 

Recognized as a biodiversity hotspot, these shared forests are home to more than 899 vascular plants, 49 mammals, 327 bird species, and 43 amphibians. Many of the wildlife and plants are threatened or critically endangered, including rosewood, the forest elephant, West African chimpanzee, western red colobus monkey, and pygmy hippopotamus. 

The forest plays a critical function through the range of ecosystem services that it provides and contributes to the mitigation of climate change impacts. Thus, its health is of global importance.

Understanding the importance of putting the MOU into action, the USAID-funded West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change (WA BiCC) program has been a key partner to both countries in their quest to better protect the forest. 

In 2018, WA BiCC supported a meeting of technical representatives to lay the groundwork for the first meeting of the Coordination Committee, including the development of a draft work plan. In 2019, WA BiCC supported the first meeting of the Coordination Committee in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and later played a key role in reviewing the suggested amendments.

Through signing the amendments, Sierra Leone and Liberia will refocus their efforts on preserving their shared resource. Together, they will seek to curtail the main drivers of the forest’s continued degradation and biodiversity loss, including illegal hunting and poaching, mining, pit logging, and agricultural encroachment.