Conservation Ignites New Livelihoods in GKNP Edge Communities

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Harvested fish on display as women fish farming trainees look on

Women gain skills in fish farming, forest patrol

Cecelia Krayu, a fish farmer, has for the first time harvested from her pond under the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation (WCF) livelihood program for affected communities around the Grebo-Krahn National Park in Grand Gedeh County.

WCF, together with the Forestry Development Authority, implements several projects focusing on forest conservation and awareness for the protection of wildlife and their habitat but also livelihood and infrastructure developments to improve the living standard of rural community dwellers. The program is being funded by the West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change (WABiCC).

Ms. Krayu, during her first harvest, expressed excitement, saying, “My life has extremely improved from this program and I want to say a big thank you to WCF and FDA.” she said.

Madam Krayu, said her first meeting with representatives of the FDA and WCF demonstrated the need to empower young women by providing fish farming ponds to community members as an alternative livelihood source of income generation. They explained to her how this can only be done if people were willing to work together with them to protect the Grebo-Krahn National Park from illegal activities.

Following that meeting, seven persons interested in fish farming were selected. She encouraged many women in the town that it was imperative to work assiduously with the partners (FDA&WCF) by establishing the fish ponds in Sayuo (a village in the GKNP) to improve their lives around the park.

During the harvest, she could not believe what she saw with her eyes. “Very big fish were harvested from my fish pond,” she said, adding that her sales generated up to twenty thousand Liberian Dollars ($LRD, 20,000) which, at the time was equivalent to US$160.

“With the FDA and WCF regular support, it was the normal routine every harvest. As the number of fish harvested increases, some of the money generated from the sale is used for pond maintenance while the rest goes towards the upkeep of my home.”

As a result of her passion for fish farming, she has travelled internationally and met many other women fish farmers, and exchanged ideas, some of which she describes as useful to her setting.

According to her, the community livelihood programs through forest conservation and sustainable management are about development, which leads to life transitioning from mats to mattress.

In a joyous tone, she stated that the income generated from fish farming has helped her upgrade the damaged thatched roof of her house to zinc. “I’m so happy that now I can sleep for more hours even during a heavy downpour of rain,” Krayu boasted.

Narrating her experience before he entry into the world of fish farming, Madam Krayu said she was very dejected. “In my soul I felt deeply scornful for myself and concluded that life was unfair to me and my family. The cause of my frustration was something not uncommon for rural dwellers.”

Cecelia said her frustration reached its limit early one morning, when she was rudely awakened after her thatched roof house had been drenched by yet another downpour of rain. As she walked towards her little clay kitchen at the back of her house to check and see if there was any damage from the rain, she heard a voice of the town crier in their local dialect (Krahn), calling for the town people to assemble at the town square where a team of WCF and FDA people could talk to them about livelihood project.

For her, the rest is history.

Krayu is not alone and said she has seen many other lives transformed in Sayuo through fish farming. Now, she explains, more women of Sayuo town are taking the initiative to construct their own fish ponds, following the system that was taught by FDA and WCF.

Eco-guard patrol

Linda Nyanway, who hails from the nearby village of Glaro Sala, but now lives in Sayuo, has also had her life transformed through a the FDA and WCF’s program as a Community Eco-guard team member.

Recently at a WABiCC Manu River Union Trans-boundary Radio Drama Design workshop, she explained that, as a high school dropout and mother of two, life was initially unbearable as meeting the daily needs of her household was a big challenge in a community that lacks opportunities.

“I immediately gave in to early marriage, a common practice in my community. I was reared by my grandmother Sarah Nyanway, whose only skills was primitive farming methodology,” she noted.

To sustain her family, she and her husband embarked on a mini-cocoa farm project as a means to earn money for housekeeping and to enable them to send their children to school since they themselves never had formal education.

She stated that WCF and FDA visited her community on several occasions to create awareness on forest conservation, which she thought wasn’t necessary to her until she had a sad experience that motivated her to step forward.

Being fully aware of the duration it takes for cocoa to bear, Linda stated she began to worry about her family’s daily needs. One evening, while sitting with some friends, an unidentified man brought a letter requesting people interested to be trained as eco-guards to go to River-Gbea, another big settlement in River Gee, for training.

Linda said she wondered as to what her chances could be, especially not knowing what it means to be an eco-guard, but she decided to give it a try after ascertaining from other people as to what involves being eco-guard.

“The FDA and their partner WCF conducted a two-week vigorous training exercise with exclusive emphasis on the functions of eco-guard highlighting the use of GPS and protecting species identification and tracking,” Linda stated.

“Although I could not read the minds of my fellow rural dwellers, my desperation to hear the message was high,” she said. “In the midst of limited opportunities amongst rural women, stepping up and getting involved in the conservation and livelihood program has been extremely important,” she noted.

In October 2018, Madam Nyanway joined the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation Community Eco-guard south team and made her first forest patrol in the Grebo-Krahn National Park, describing her experience in the forest as “wonderful and exciting.” Since then, she has had several other trips, earning her an average income of one hundred and fifty United States Dollars (USD$150) per trip.

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