GEF Council Approves US$74.3m Project to Reduce Deforestation in Liberia  


Monrovia — The Global Environment Facility (GEF) Council has approved a US$74.3 million full-size child project under the GEF-funded Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration (FOLUR) Impact Program that is led by the World Bank.

 The five-year Liberia FOLUR child project, which seeks to advance land use planning, sustainable commodity production and restoration of degraded forests in Northwest Liberia Landscape will be executed by – Liberia Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in collaboration with Conservation International and partners.

The project is funded by a US$7.3 million GEF grant and US$66.9 million co-financing from the EPA, Forestry Development Authority (FDA), Liberian Institute of Statistics and Geographical Information Services (LISGIS) Liberia Land Authority (LLA), Mano Manufacturing Company, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Society for Conservation of Nature in Liberia (SCNL), Conservation International, Fauna and Flora International, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, and the Ministry of Agriculture.

The FOLUR Impact Program is based on the growing recognition that food production systems and land use must improve for the health of people, the planet, and economies, a joint press release from the EPA and CI said.

On this basis, the Liberia FOLUR Child Project would also – promote biodiversity conservation and sustainable food systems for enhanced livelihood opportunities in North West (NW) Liberia Landscape through land use planning, restoration of degraded lands and strengthening governance, policies, and market incentives for nationally replicable models of deforestation-free cocoa and palm oil value chains. The 2.5 million-hectare – landscape has been identified as a global conservation priority for carbon and biodiversity, as well as for key ecosystem services including freshwater provision for more than a million Liberians, sediment regulation for planned hydropower, and water provision for agricultural development.

 It spans Grand Cape Mount, Lofa, Bomi, Gbarpolu, and Bong Counties, and has a population of 900,000 people of which 570,000 live in the project area.

But the expansion of commercial oil palm plantations into intact forest ecosystems, uncontrolled agricultural expansion by communities relying on shifting cultivation, and related extractive livelihoods such as charcoal production and bushmeat hunting are increasingly threatening the landscape’s ability to sustain people and biodiversity.

“Sustainably integrating oil palm, cocoa and other agriculture investments into forested landscapes in Liberia poses a number of challenges, but the Northwest Liberia -landscape offers a proving ground for piloting innovative, integrative approaches that will deliver model progress towards sustainable development,” said Prof. 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 ecosystem services and conserving critical forest areas,” Dr. Peter Mulbah, CI-Liberia Country Director said.

The development of land use plans (LUPs), according to the release, will form the basis for identifying and delineating areas for protection, restoration, and sustainable agriculture.

Participatory, multi-stakeholder land-use planning will take place at the landscape level and the community level. The project will also support a national land-use planning process.

The joint press added that land-use planning will inform the development of a gazettement package for Wologizi Proposed Protected Area (99,538 ha) for submission to the Cabinet and recommendation to the legislature.

A key component of the project will also involve expanding sustainable production of food crops, oil palm, and cocoa in areas zoned for this use within the landscape.

This, according to the release will be achieved through training of smallholders in sustainable agriculture, providing seed funding, and creating linkages to larger private sector operators.

Approximately 15,000 hectares of degraded areas that are crucial for ecosystem connectivity and integrity will be identified and prioritized for restoration within the project area and US$5 million directed to the efforts.

 The project will also contribute to maintaining – significant biodiversity and ecosystem goods and services by improving land-use practices in over 350,000 ha and directly benefit- at least 50,000 people in the NW landscape.

 Lastly, based on anticipated land-use planning results, the project will absorb and sequester an estimated total of 36,134,316 tCO2e through improved landscape management and forest protection, climate-smart agriculture, and restoration.