By: Prof. John T. Woods (Former Managing Director of FDA & Associate Dean for Forestry, University of Liberia)
The Potentials of Wonegizi as a Protected Area (PA) in the development of the communities, districts and Lofa County is in the process of gazettement. This is the process when all stakeholders cooperate and make joyous efforts to make the Protected Area in Law. As a citizen of Lofa and two times Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) in two difference administration, it is a very good news for me and welcoming news for communities of Wonegizi. It will be a remised if I do not tell the story as it is.
Wonegizi Protected Area to be known as the Wonegizi Multi-Use Reserve (MUR) is located in western Liberia adjacent to the Ziama Biosphere Reserve classified as the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve. The proposed protected Wonegizi has been designated as Multiple Use Nature Reserve next to proposed protected area of Wologizi as a strict nature reserve, which has the potential of becoming a transboundary area which could provide tremendous benefits as a “Peace Park.” Peace Parks are land spaces between the borders of two countries where citizens interact peacefully and avoid violence and any acts of aggression.
The Wonegizi proposed protected area (Figure 1) is a part of the tropical forest in the Upper Guinea region lying from Guinea to Togo. In this region Liberia shares the highest portion, about 43%, of the tropical forest cover, while Ivory Coast shares the next, 16%. According to the findings of scientists meeting in Cape Coast, Ghana in 1999, the Liberian portion of this Upper Guinea Forest is very rich in biodiversity. This simply means that there are abundant and various species of plants (flora) and animals (fauna). These scientists also agreed that the biodiversity of the region is also globally significant, meaning that whatever affects it may have implications for the rest of the world. The point to recognize is that Wonegizi landscape is in a country with rich and globally significant biodiversity. Wonegizi has very high relevant potentials in biodiversity.
There remains two significant forest blocks that determine the significance of the biodiversity content of the 43% of Liberia’s share in the Upper Guinea Forest: The Southeastern Block and The Northwest ern Block. The Government of Liberia and partners have already recognized the importance and potentials of the Southeastern Block by establishing and managing several protected areas including the Sapo National Park and the Grebo-Krahn Forest National Park. Meanwhile, the East Nimba Nature Reserve, The Lake Piso Multi-purpose Reserve have been established. In order to tap the potentials of the Western block, the Gola Forest National Park was established in 2015, thus bringing into existence five of the seven protected areas (Figure 2) envisaged by GOL to accomplish the conservation objective under the 3 C sustainable forest management policy.
To achieve the objective of the conservation policy, a network of protected areas is to be established under the protected area network law of 2003. All protected areas established under this Law before the policy reform law of 2006 have been classified as a network of protected areas, while those protected areas established after policy reform law are referred to the Expanded protected areas network (EXPAN), and these include: Lake Piso Multi-Purpose Reserve, Gola National Park, and Grebo-Krahn Forest National Park. The establishment of Wonegizi Mult-purpose Use Reserve and Wologizi Strict Nature Reserve will bring the number of protected areas to seven proposed by the GOL.
To be become a protected area for multiple uses, the FDA and development partners have been conducting studies to justify why Wonegizi should become a protected area. Findings from these studies indicate that tremendous potentials of Wonegizi as a protected area for the development of Lofa County. The Wonegizi Protected Area has 13 communities that will be directed impacted by the establishment of the Wonegizi Multiplue Use Reserve. Nine of the 13 communities are located in Zorzor District, 2 in Voinjama District and 2 in Quardu-Gboni District. These communities will benefit from activities in core zones such as carbon credits, hunting, farming and production of timber products.
The WMUR contains 5 key species which are under threat. They include: Jentink’s duiker, Diana monkey, West African red colobus, green-tailed bristlebill and yellow-bearded greenbul. Also, it contains 2 vulnerable bird species: Nimba flycatcher and the white-necked rockfowl or picathartes. Additionally, corridors and buffer zones will be provided for large mammals such as western chimpanzees, forest elephants, pygmy hippo, sooty mangabey, etc. to facilitate their mobility.
In 2013 survey, 374 plant species were identified, of which 66 (18%) are Upper Guinea endemics. In national comparison, about 2.3% of total flowering or vascular plants (2900) in Liberia. Examples of the species are: Anubias gracilis, Dicranolepis laciniata, Diospyros heudelotii, Millettia warneckei, Paramacrolobium coeruleum, Pseudoprosopis sericea and Samanea dinklagei. Allanblackia parviflora. According to James T. Kpadeyea, a botanist from the Wonegizi area, some of the plants have medicinal values.
Potentials and intended benefits of WMUR should be highlighted:
- WMUR is intended to be multiple use reserve meaning all the beneficiary communities will be allowed to use the landscape for livelihood enhancement in normal circumstances;
- The landscape will be divided into economic zones which will allow beneficiaries to derive benefits the zones under supervised procedures for hunting, farming, harvest of nontimber forest products; and*-
- in the case of REDD+ project zone, carbon benefits will be derived by communities which will reduce emission and increase carbon sink.
- In the are of tourism, many tourist assets will be created and tourist guards trained to engage in the management of tourism in the landscape.