Environment Protection Agency Concludes Phase 2 Sensitization on RIO Conventions in Western Liberia

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Bomi CountySeveral farmers, local leaders and stakeholders from western Liberia – Grand Cape Mount, Gbarpolu,  Bomi and Montserrado Counties – have been cautioned to preserving their communities and environment from potential climate change through a two-day Stakeholders Consultative and Awareness Workshop on the three Rio Conventions; Bio-Diversity, Desertification and Climate Change.


Report by Lisa T. Diasay


Currently, the world is changing globally with climate change being one of the newest challenges, causing disaster in several countries due to failure to preserve environment properly.

The stakeholders made the assertion during the second phase of the regional stakeholders’ consultation awareness workshop under the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programmes (UNDP)  Cross-Cutting Capacity Development Project. Recently the EPA held the first phase in Nimba County for hundred stakeholders in Northern and Central Liberia.

Under the CCCD project, Liberia is expected to strengthen and institutionalized commitments under the RIO conventions by ensuring the flow of assistance and information between the local, national and global level efforts. Additionally, at the end of the project Liberia will achieve global environmental benefits at a lower transactional cost by improved coordination, collaboration and updating the NCSA to reflect post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals. SDG 12 states that countries around the world must ensure that it’s achieve success by protecting their environment from Climate Change.

As part of the consultative workshop, Ma Jartu Pussah who is a farmer from Grand Cape Mount County described the role of farmers in the preservation of the environment especially, in the hinterland as crucial to helping the country support and achieve the RIO and SDG 13.

Liberia ratified and acceded to the RIO conventions on September 25, 2008. The three RIO conventions focus on Biodiversity, Climate Change and Desertification and derived directly from the 1992 earth summit in which each instrument represents a way of contributing to the Sustainable Development goals of Agenda 21.

Ma Jartu underscored the importance of continuous awareness for farmers and community members in combating climate change and saving the forest. “We want for EPA to help empower the farmers with more knowledge so we can help our other friends in the community to save our forest”.

She pledged to raise awareness in her community after being a part of the consultative awareness workshop as a means of helping EPA and the country at-large.

Western, Northern and Southeastern Liberia are seen with high green forest with various species of wildlife, but the country’s forest is facing continuous depletion.

Chief William Marwolo, paramount chief of Bopolu chiefdom in Gbarpolu County, stated that the delay by Liberia to implement international conventions which are in the interest of saving country from further disaster is worrisome as other countries are advancing some strategies to move forward. “It is sad the implementation of the law by the government of Liberia remains a major challenge to our development in this country and government should do more so we can make impact,” he said.

He challenged his colleagues attending the workshop to be leaders of change in creating more awareness on the essence of keeping the water, forest and land safe due to their direct representation of their districts, counties and regions.

The Cross-Cutting Capacity Development program which is a four-year project is funded by Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by the EPA in collaboration with the  United Nations Development Program UNDP.

UNDP

According to the team leader of the Sustainable Economic Transformation (SET) UNDP, Dorsla Farcarthy, the CCCD Project is essential due to its impact on the environment. He stated that sensitization and awareness are key to keeping the environment safe in order to ensure the boost of economic growth and promote livelihood.

Mr. Farcarthy noted that the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals especially 13 depends on citizens action which he believes is cardinal to combating climate change, “we need to change our habits that undermines the fight for protecting our environment order than that we will feel the real effect of climate change which would lead to death in terms of protecting our soil,” he cautioned.

Several presentations were made to raise awareness of stakeholders on the risky behavior being practices daily in the community against the preservation of the environment.

Biodiversity

Biodiversity 7 Sustainable Development presented by the EPA Focal Point on Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) J.S Datuamah Cammue highlighted the country’s role and involvement in the preservation of the environment for its citizenry. “Everyone has the fundamental right to an environment adequate for his or her wellbeing; noting that the state has more responsibilities to conserve and use the environment and natural resources for the beneficial of the present and future generations.

“It is the responsibilities of the state to maintain ecosystem and ecological processes essential for the functioning of the biosphere. They shall also preserve biological diversity and observe the principle of optimum sustainable yield in the use of living natural resources and ecosystems; it is the responsibility of the States to inform in a timely manner all people likely to be significantly affected by a planned activity and to grant them equal access due process in administrative and judicial proceeding,” he averred.

Mr. Cammue disclosed that environmental sustainability remains at the heart of the sustainable development movement; which is the process of making sure current processes of interaction with the environment are pursued with the idea of keeping the environments as natural as possible. “Sustainability requires that human activity only uses nature’s resources at a rate at which they can be replenished naturally. Inherently the concept of sustainable development is intertwined with the concept of carrying capacity”.

Cammue’s presentation captured the three constituents’ parts of sustainability for the environment which includes Environmental sustainability, Economic sustainability and Socio-political sustainability.

Climate Change

In 2008, Liberia completed its National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA). The NAPA is intended to address urgent and immediate adaptation actions for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to build their resilience to the impacts of climate change. At the end of the NAPA Process, three urgent and immediate adaptations were identified mainly Integrated Cropping and Livestock Farming, Coastal Defence and Climate Smart Agriculture.

Under the LDCF, the EPA mobilized funding for the execution of the following projects to help strengthening the resilient of the country against the impacts of climate change: Enhancing Resilience to Climate Change by Mainstreaming Adaptation Concerns to Agricultural Sector Development – US$2.3 Million, Enhancing Resilience of Vulnerable Coastal Areas to Climate Risks – US$4.9 Million.

Other projects include Strengthening Liberia’s Capability to Provide Climate Information and Services to enhance Climate Resilient Development and Adaptation to Climate Change – US$6.7 Million and Enhancing Resilience of Liberia Montserrado County Vulnerable Coastal Areas to Climate Change Risks- US$2.3 million.

According to the UNFCCCC Focal Point at EPA, Benjamin Karmoh, the execution of the above projects did not only help to mainstream climate change at the sectoral levels, but also assisted in strengthening the resilient of the country against climate change.

“Under the LDCF, in 2013, Liberia completed its Initial National Communication and submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention to Climate Change Secretariat, Bonn, Germany. Liberia’s INC is a reporting document on the status of climate change activities in the country. The reports on the national greenhouse gas inventory, vulnerability and adaptation, mitigation analysis,” he said.

According to him, a Comprehensive study was commissioned by UNDP to determine the cost of investing in climate change in the future which it focused on agriculture in terms of adaptation and energy in terms of mitigation. The study report indicated that more money will be needed to invest in these two sectors to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Mr Karmoh said the EPA is being supported US$2,000,000.00 to develop a National Adaptation Plan intended to address medium and long-term adaptation activities for building the resilience of developing countries against the impacts of climate change.

He named coordination, lack of data, data gap, few national experts and No national budgetary support as some of the major challenges, “there is a need for technical and financial support to help Liberia fulfill its reporting obligation under the UNFCCC process”.

Desertification and Sustainable Land Use

Presenting on Dissertation and Sustainable Land Use, EPA, National Focal Point on United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, UNCCD, Berexford S. Jallah said every year, Africa loses about 280 million tons of cereal crops from about 105 million hectares of croplands. Similarly, he said poverty-related agricultural practices are a major contributor to desertification. Continuous cultivation without adding supplements, overgrazing, lack of soil and water conservation structures and indiscriminate bushfires aggravate the process of desertification.

Mr. Jallah disclosed that dry lands cover 65 per cent of the continent, noting that one-third of this area is hyper-arid deserts and completely uninhabited, except in oases; while Africa also suffers from inherently low soil fertility as the bedrock consists of granites and gneiss.

He pointed out that regionally, nearly one-third of the central plateau of Africa is over 600 million years old (Pre-Cambrian age). The rest of the surface has sand and alluvial deposits of Pleistocene age (less than 2 million years old). Human activities in obtaining food, fibre, fuel and shelter have significantly altered the soil.

Mr Jallah said the sub-region of West Africa has experienced significant changes in land cover during this century, ranging from deforestation near the Atlantic coast to desertification near the border with the Sahara Desert; a significant drought during the last few decades, with below normal levels of rainfall observed almost everywhere within West Africa.

He stressed that low soil fertility, changes in rainfall patterns, low crop yield, extreme coastal flooding events, sea level rise among others as major national impact on desertification in Liberia.

Liberia, as part of its obligation to implement the UNCCD, has developed a National Action Programme, which identifies the status of environment, causes and extend of land degradation in Liberia, and strategies to restore degraded ecosystems and neutralize degradation by 2030.

Gender Perspectives

The lead presenter on the Gender Perspective of the RIO conventions, RICCE Executive Director, Salome G. Gofan said there is a need for the full participation of women at all levels of policy-making and implementation for biodiversity conservation.

“The crucial role of women in the conservation of biodiversity and the importance of their participation in addressing both climate change and loss of biodiversity has been acknowledged in several international legal and policy documents e.g. Rio Declaration, Agenda 21, United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity and Cancun Agreements), however, the agreed provisions are far from being implemented (Aguilar 2008) and putting these ‘words into action’ seems to be quite a challenge”. She pointed out.

The UNFCCC was only Rio Conventions without mandates on women’s rights and gender equality from the outset due to the gender differentiated impacts of climate change already being felt by communities all over the world, negotiators recognized the importance of gender considerations in relation to climate adaptation and mitigation.

According to her, in 2017 (Bonn Germany) Parties finalized the first-ever UNFCCC Gender Action Plan to propel gender-responsive  implementation. UNFCCC recognizes major groups’ (farmers, women, children and youth, indigenous people, NGOs, local authorities, the scientific and technological community as partners in sustainable development.

In an effort to close the gender gap in the use of natural resources, the 2017 Global Environment Facility (GEF) Policy on Gender Equality states that “men and women use natural resources differently and, as a result; they are affected differently by changes to these resources. Moreover, Gender inequality and social exclusion increase the negative effects of environmental degradation on women and girls”. UN Environment observes that “the only way to identify and implement the best policies for the environment and sustainable development is to close the gender gap”.

With this madam Gofan recommended in addition women should be recognized and credit  the key role  in environmental sustainability and not as vulnerable  group but  also  change makers, improve the data collection on women’s and men’s opportunities to be involved in decision-making, segregate data  – set  specific  gender  targets and indicators  that are measurable and ensure equal participation of men and women, not only in terms of nominal and provide training so they can participate effectively, among others. She also recommended that the CCCD Project hire gender focal point to ensure the success of the project.

Mass Media Role

The role of the media is significant to the actualization of the EPA’s national consultative dialogue and the achievement of Liberia progress on maintaining their environment to climate change.

EPA Communication Specialist Danise Dennis sensitized stakeholders on the essence of providing cogent and information as a means of transforming and impacting the community.

Danise said environmental awareness is a strategic communication process which promotes the knowledge of environment; keep people up to date about disastrous impacts of human development and help them to know about sustainable development.For the sake of our world, clearly environmental awareness plays critical role for creating interest in environment”.

Presenting on the linkages between Biodiversity, Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Land Use, Mr John Forkpa Kannah said that the most effects of climate change are found in developing countries like Liberia, where the populations are most vulnerable and least likely to easily adapt to climate change.  Speaking further he mentioned that changes in temperature, water supply and quality will impact on Agricultural production, human settlement and health, biodiversity and animal migratory patterns and that poorer countries are likely to be losers and the richer countries might gain from moderate warming.

Mr Kannah to participants that latest research and studies exposed plastic waste when expose to light releases heat-trapping, climate-warming gases. He also  said that the light not only break down plastic, but also releases methane and ethylene-two of the most problematic greenhouse gases, and though the gases from the degraded plastic probably account for a small percentage of global emissions, which likely grow contributions.

He concluded by giving the life span of some of the plastic materials that are dispose in the environment; Stating, glass bottle spent 1 million years, plastic beverage bottle spent 450 years, disposable diapers 450 years in the soil, foamed plastic cup 80 years, plastic bag 10-20 years and news paper 6 weeks while a paper towel takes 2-4 weeks to decompose or break down.

Climate change is everybody business.

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