Zorzor, Lofa County – The UK Ambassador to Liberia, Neil Bradley says Liberia is very special to the world because its forest remains critical to the health of the entire planet given the rich biodiversity it possesses, especially at a time when the world is experiencing deepening climate change global warming as well as diseases outbreak globally.
This, he noted, continues to make Liberia globally attractive, significant and ‘very, very special,’ something he said deserves public recognition and commendation to the highest. Against this background, the British envoy said his country deeply holds Liberians in high esteem for protecting and preserving their forests consistent with the current global quest for conservation, a situation he believes has certainly elevated Liberia’s image high in the eyes of the global community. He recounted the importance of forest in the lives of humankind because of the pivotal role it plays in man’s survival all over the world.
He made these and other interesting statements recently during town hall meetings with chiefs, elders, youth and women groups of Konia, Ziggida and Vetesu towns respectively, all in Zorzor District, Lofa County where he, his Deputy Chief of Mission, Kate Thomson and the joint high level technical teams from the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and Fauna & Flora International (FFI) have gone for a sightseeing tour of the Wonegizi Proposed Protected Area.
He emphatically stressed, “Liberia is so special because of the forest, wildlife, culture and other natural resources it continues to keep”. He added “the United Kingdom recently hosted the International Climate Change Conference, the biggest gathering on climate change issues and 140 world leaders were present, including President George Manneh Weah. Particularly important, President Weah put Liberia’s name to declaration of the importance of forest and how we use our land and other natural resources wisely to better the lives of people. As we all know we are facing a climate crisis, climate change is real, we see extreme weather events, diseases outbreak, flooding, erosion and temperature rises that affect farmers and produce, and it affects the food that we eat and water we drink”.
He said that once the forest is gone, it’s hard to get it back and even though technology has advanced, the solution to climate change primarily depends on the preservation and conservation of nature including the forest and all its constituent elements.
“Nature provides us with a readymade solution, so we need to look after it, and the work that you [FDA and partners] are doing to protect Liberia’s forest landscapes and rich biodiversity is so important, but that is not enough. We have to have the support of communities because communities need sustainable livelihoods support in order to conserve the forest better. So we need forest friendly livelihoods that advance through conservation and agriculture”.
He then urged Liberians to keep tight grips on their forest and carefully look after it because according to him, “the world, the whole world knows that you have forest that is very key to the survival of the entire planet” adding, “Liberia’s forest will make the planet healthy.” He reminded the citizens about the recent climate change meeting hosted by the United Kingdom where President Weah promised to conserve and protect Liberia’s forest in the wake of global demand to preserve nature.
The British Envoy then categorically stated his government’s unrelenting support to the conservation initiatives being carried out by the government of President Weah through the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and its collaborating partners; while encouraging Liberians to continue protecting their forest from being destroyed as it remains principally important to the health of the entire planet.
Impressed by the visit, the citizens, through the Acting District Commissioner, Nyanquoi Dolo through the local chiefs and elders presented cola nuts to the visiting British officials as traditional token of endorsement and appreciation for the visit. He used the occasion to caution the citizens to always be law abiding as it relates to protecting the forest. The local government official then promised to ensure that the government’s agenda to protect the forest is implemented to the fullest.
In his earlier welcome remark in Konia during a brief program before the start of the tour of the forest, Mr. C. Mike Doryen, Managing Director of the FDA, thanked the British officials for the expressed interest in the sightseeing tour of the ‘Wonegizi Proposed Protected Area’ while at the same time appreciated the UK government for the recent well organized climate change conference that bordered on protecting nature and how best to avoid the negative impact of climate change. Additionally, he hailed the UK government for making huge commitment towards neutralizing global warming and hoped Liberia will be considered high on the list of beneficiaries given its forest treasure that remains the heartbeat of the whole world.
For her part, the FFI Country Director, Dr. Mary Molokwu-Odozi said Liberia is one of the countries, especially in West Africa advanced in terms of protecting their forest and in recognizing the role of communities. She thanked the FDA rangers, auxiliary groups, and the community members for their cooperation in so many unique ways in particular, supporting community-based monitoring of the forest.
She recounted the many achievements of the FFI over the years and its strives in ensuring the management of the forest consistent with the Liberia 2018 Land Rights Act. She further thanked the FDA administration for its progressive stance in making sure that the efforts of the FFI yield desired results. Meanwhile, Dr. Molokwu-Odozi acknowledged the UK government for the funding to FFI through the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund that has enabled the FDA and other government agencies, including the Wildlife Crime Task Force to address illegal wildlife trade (IWT) and other crucial conservation related activities, including the training of law enforcement rangers, Public Prosecutors and Magistrates and community auxiliaries in the Wonegizi Proposed Protected Area Landscape. She added that funding from a UK Charity, the Rainforest Trust has also been awarded to FFI to continue support to the conservation and protection of Wonegizi and Wologizi Proposed Protected Areas.
The tour of the Wonegizi forest essentially climaxed the entire visit and elated enthusiasm, admiration and the warmth of Mother Nature. The yelping of the gentle birds, the flow of uncontaminated air and the captivating look of the trees in all sizes all comfortably greeted the visitors. The two British officials certainly seemed highly impressed following nearly two hours of walk through the forest along with the FDA and FFI bosses, Managing Director C. Mike Doryen and Dr. Mary Molokwu-Odozi, an exercise they described as very timely and wonderful experience.
It can be recalled that in 1964, the German Forestry Mission (GFM) conducted an inventory of the forest nationally in Liberia and identified forest types in 1.6 million hectares (30 percent) of growing forest stock across the country, and the Lorma National Forest in the northwest was split into Wologizi and Wonegizi national forests.
The Proposed Wonegizi Nature Reserve / Protected Area is approximately 27,500 hectares of forest land in Zorzor District, the northwest of Lofa County and stretches towards the Guinea border. The Upper Guinea forest priority setting workshop in 1999 identified the forest as one of the very high conservation priority area biological hotspots.
On October 27, 2020 the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) in collaboration with the Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the Skills and Agriculture Development Services (SADS) conducted a National Stakeholders Consultation for the gazettement of the Wonegizi Proposed Protected Area. The stakeholders endorsed in principle the gazettement of the area. However, a customary land formalization process in line with the Land Rights Act of 2018 will now precede finalization of the process of establishing Wonegizi as a fully Protected Area.