The international resource organization, World Resource Institute (WRI) and the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) recently launched the first Forest Atlas for Liberia to promote sustainable forest management and land administration.
The official launch, which was held at a resort in Monrovia, will serve as a conduit where conservationists and other civil society organizations will be able to receive updates regarding the forest and land sectors in the context of forest cover loss, forest cover gain and the number of concessions and their total land areas.
During the launch, several facilitators from various conservation and environmental organizations were selected by WRI and the FDA to make presentations on the forest sector and the importance of an atlas to conservation in Liberia.
Deputy Foreign Minister for International Corporation Deypue Zuo, on behalf of the government, welcomed the launch of the country’s first forest atlas, describing it as a very useful tool that can be used in determining from time to time, the status of the country’s forest sector.
“We the policymakers can use this kind of atlas to make decisions that will improve not only the forest sector, but also enhance or promote development activities in Liberia,” Mr. Zuo said.
“The issue of sustainable forest management cannot be divorced from Liberia’s development agenda,” he said.
“We have enough forest in Liberia, but the utilization is almost very much limited so we need to build serious sensitization among the population to make them understand the importance of protecting the forest.”
The Focal Person on Climate Change at Liberia’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Benjamin Karmorh, called on the WRI to commit funding toward improving the forest sector and to build awareness on its activities.
“As we launch this Forest Atlas, let us now bring in some finances because the government now is talking about economic diversification. Let us look at forest resources in terms of tourism, because there are countries in Africa where people go just to watch the gorillas in the mountain, and we know how much economic benefits such things can bring to those countries,” Mr. Karmorh said.
“It’s now time that we technicians invite the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and the Liberia Revenue Authority to do the economic value of our country that will appeal to the conscious of the decision makers to allay their fears of why we are always asking for preserving the forest without economic benefits.”
He expressed the hope that the EPA will develop an action plan to ensure the proper implementation and promotion of WRI activities in Liberia.
FDA Deputy Managing Director Darlington Tuagben said understanding the use of the forest atlas will ease and enhance the work of civil society actors, academia, government actors, students and other Liberians in knowing exactly the status of the country’s forest and land sectors.
Mr. Tuagben said though the atlas is not 100 percent perfect, yet it is helpful to every conservationist, because it provides the opportunity to prepare in addressing threats to the country’s forest sector.
WRI National Coordinator to Liberia Joel Gamys said the entity is responding to the urgent challenges of climate, energy, food, water, forest, city and transport worldwide.
Mr. Gamys said in Africa, Liberia’s program is focusing on improving land and resources and allocation through transparent comprehensive participatory approach and monitoring natural use to ensure respect for legal publication as well as associated social and environmental best practices, with emphasis on timber, mining and oil palm.
“Now talking about intervention we support, the first one has to do with building tool and application to ensure access to high quality information in user friendly and decision relevant format; the second one has to do with monitoring and analysis to determining natural resources policy effectiveness; the third one has to do with capacity building, analysis, and outreach to ensure ability of local decision makers and stakeholders to apply forest and natural resource information; and the forth area has to do with effective and inclusive governance,” Mr. Gamys told stakeholders in the forest sector.
Gamys said the atlas is very simple, user friendly and can be used by every individual in Liberia expressing the need for Liberians to begin thinking about exploring its usefulness to the adaption of future planning in the land and forest sectors.
Laura B. Vary, WRI Manager for West Africa and Madagascar, reminded Liberian forest stakeholders that similar user-friendly atlases were launched in Cameroun and DR Congo, and the data is free of charge. She said data in the atlas are accurate because they are carefully reviewed and processed.
The forest atlas project for Liberia began in 2015 with the signing of a memorandum of understanding between WRI-Global Forest Watch and the FDA to ensure sustainable forest governance in the country.
Participants were drilled on how to sustainably and effectively use the atlas to access information regarding the forest and land sectors. More than 30 persons from various forest sectors attended the launch.