Liberia Land Wahala
Deep dive into the climate change crisis causing wahala — or trouble — in Liberia. We travel to communities across this country and bring back their stories. FPA’s Mae Azango and Anthony Stephens of Power FM/TV host this exploration of land, environment, climate change, and conflict. And they interview experts and authorities for answers. This podcast is supported by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and American Jewish World Service. The funders had no say in its content.
Liberia’s coastal wetlands form a critical ecosystem, but our fast-growing coastal population is threatening them. In this program, we learn more about wetlands and visit communities that live on them.
We look at the Kailondo gas station and ask what is holding up an EPA order to shut it down.
But first, one of the biggest challenges to wetlands is the mountains of garbage and sewerage flooding Monrovia. In slum communities, people are battling insects, rats, and diseases. The issue prompted a row between Monrovia mayor Jefferson Koijee and US Ambassador Michael McCarthy last month.
Climate change is ravaging our region but Liberia has one major asset. One of the world’s largest tracts of forest is right here. Trees play a major role in helping halt climate change. But the forest also plays a key role in providing for our fast-growing population.
Can Liberians find other ways to provide for themselves? And what next for president Weah’s African carbon credit scheme?
“What nature has placed in this country makes us one of the most nature-based valuable nations in the world.” Jefferson Nyandibo, the Liberian focal point for the UN Framework on Climate Change.
EXTRA: Full Interview with UNDP Resident Representative Stephen Rodrigues
In this bonus episode, we bring you Anthony’s full interview with Liberia’s Resident Representative for the United Nations Development Program, Stephen Rodrigues.
The UNDP is the key international partner for Liberia’s Climate Change Adaptation Program and we discussed how the UNDP and international partners are helping Liberia adapt to the changing climate.
EPISODE 4: The Sea is Coming
The sea is slowly taking over Liberia’s land. Rising global temperatures are melting ice caps causing sea levels to rise. Thousands of people have already lost their homes and livelihoods.
“FOR THE PEOPLE IN LIBERIA CLIMATE CHANGE IS A CATASTROPHIC REALITY. IT IS LITERALLY EATING UP THE GROUND FROM BENEATH THEIR FEET. PLUNGING THEM INTO AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE,” says Stephen Rodrigues, UNDP Resident Representative, Liberia
Experts predict more than two hundred and thirty thousand people are at risk and more than two thousand square kilometers will be lost to the sea by the end of the century. In West Point in Monrovia 800 homes have already been lost. Houses and major roads and infrastructure – even the country’s premier hospitals – are threatened.
We look at what the government and international community are doing to help Liberians adapt. And we ask what Liberians can do for themselves.
EPISODE 3: Farmers Battle Climate Change
Nearly 8 in every 10 Liberians survive solely on the food they grow. In the last three seasons, unpredictable rain and higher temperatures have wrought havoc on their crops. In this episode farmers in Bong County tell our reporter Evelyn Kpadeh Seagbeh that they can no longer grow enough food to survive. Meanwhile, Liberia’s agriculture industry, which brings in 90% of the country’s export earnings, is also facing a crisis. Climate change means rubber, palm oil, and cocoa are more difficult for Liberian farmers to grow. What can farmers do to adapt? And what are the government and the international community doing to help?
EPISODE 2: Plastic Pollution Crisis
On the coast of West Africa, the country of Liberia is known for its fishing and strong surf — and now, for what locals call its “dirt.” We unlock the plastic pollution crisis that is drowning the land and sea and creating worrisome “wahala” for citizens. Those in the slums are in dire straits, especially during rainy season. Other African countries like Kenya and Rwanda have banned single-use plastic, but Liberians can find themselves adrift in a cesspool of it. A big part of the plastic problem is the water people drink. If nothing is done to solve this environmental crisis soon, recycling enterprise founder Abraham Freeman tells us, Liberia is on track to become one of the biggest ocean polluters of the Sub-Saharan region. Can entrepreneurs or government turn the tide?
EPISODE 1: Land Rights Confusion
In Liberia, the land is life. But this land is whose land? In this episode, we explore Liberia’s legacy of land ownership. Modern laws are supposed to give rights to customary land back to indigenous tribes and local communities. Instead, widespread confusion and conflicts are erupting all over the country. We document disputes and land grabs — even while encountering threats — and seek answers from authorities. Have laws for land rights gone wrong, or can they work?
Mae Azango is one of the best-known reporters in Liberia. Her dedication to telling the stories of ordinary Liberians in FrontPage Africa newspaper has won her acclaim in Liberia and around the world. Since joining New Narratives as one of the first “fellows” in 2010, Mae has broken many stories and taboos. In 2012, Mae was forced to go into hiding after her report on the practice of female genital cutting by Liberia’s traditional societies brought death threats. Eventually, government ministers and traditional leaders came forward for the first time to denounce threats against journalists and female genital cutting. The practice was finally banned by President Sirleaf in 2018. Mae’s courageous reporting was rewarded with the 2012 International Press Freedom awards, from the Committee to Protect Journalists and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. Mae is currently NN’s Africa director. She is committed to being a voice for the voiceless.
Anthony Stephens is an award-winning television and radio journalist and talk show host with Power FM/TV, where he serves as News Editor. Anthony led New Narratives’ coverage of the trial of Alieu Kosiah, convicted of war crimes in Switzerland in the first trial of a Liberian anywhere for war crimes in Liberia’s civil wars. Anthony’s work has garnered several prestigious Press Union of Liberia awards, including multiple Report of the Year awards plus awards for reporting on sports, the environment, mining, and health issues. Anthony was a 2018 finalist (the only Liberian Journalist) of the West Africa Media Excellence Conference and Awards, WAMECA, annually organized by the Media Foundation for West Africa. With a professional career spanning 15 years, Anthony has worked for some of his country’s powerful and acclaimed media outlets, including Star Radio and Radio Veritas.