It appears quite certain now that the Wonegizi, a proposed protected area located in Lofa, may be legally designated a Multiple Use Reserve sooner or later, given the momentous national multi-stakeholders’ consultation held in Monrovia on October 27, 2020, with measurable indications pointing to its possible gazettement by the government of Liberia.
Through sustained collaboration, the Forestry Development Authority, along with the Fauna and Flora International (FFI) and the Skills and Agricultural Development, had been working assiduously to set the stage for national consultation following consultations at the levels of the clans, districts and the county, thereby graduating the deliberations to the national level, which spawned massive attendance.
The national component of the deliberation was graced by high-level government representatives from the Ministries of Justice, Internal Affairs, Mines and Energy, Agriculture, the Liberia Land Authority, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Also in attendance were representatives from the Lofa County Legislative Caucus, the chairman of FDA Board of Directors, international non-governmental organizations, the Mano River Union and traditional chiefs and elders from Lofa County.
Welcoming the participants earlier, FDA Managing Director C. Mike Doryen lauded the efforts of the collaborating partners which have and continue to generate Liberia’s compliance with the global doctrine of conservation. He fondly remembered the magnanimous contributions to the process by his predecessors and hoped their dream will certainly come to pass. He described the process as yet another milestone in the history of Liberia, FDA in particular, which he believes will draw the conservation world closer to the nation. He thanked the people of Lofa for their demonstrated love for the country and expressed hope for the enormous benefits that Liberia stands to reap.
Lofa County Superintendent, William Kanba Tamba, in remarks acknowledged the FDA and FFI families for their steadfastness which has earned the desired result but suggested continued education for the citizens to enable them adequately understand the process. He recounted his Namibia experience where he and other colleagues had gone through the sponsorship of FFI on a study tour, an experience he described as worthy of emulation.
For his part Lofa County Caucus Chair, Francis Nymalay promised the Caucus’ fervent interest in the process and assured the caucus’ readiness to ensure that the people of Lofa are brought on board. He challenged the FDA authority to ensure the effectiveness of the forestry-related laws that could engender the realistic protection of the forest in the truest sense of the word to avoid violations. FDA Board Chairman, Harrison S. Karnwea, and Professor John Woods, both of whom had formerly served as FDA Managing Directors respectively, expressed enthusiasm over the development and stressed the need for Liberia to continuously uphold the global doctrine of conservation in the wake of global warming.
Several experts from FDA, FFI, SCNL, SADS, and SDI respectively, made presentations on the legal framework supporting the gazettement process, an overview of protected area network, the background of Wonegizi, updates on community, districts, and country consultations with respect to the citizens’ free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). Another presentation was also made on REDD+ project community engagement in the area.
In a prepared statement, FFI Country Director, Dr. Mary Molokwu, reemphasized the significance of Wonegizi in biodiversity protection and the provision of ecosystem services, not only for people living around the forest but to the people of Liberia as a whole and the world at large. She said since 2012 FFI has worked with FDA along with the Skills and Agricultural Development Services (SADS) and developed the REDD+ pilot project in Wonegizi funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD).
“We are living at a time when the urgency to satisfy the demands of the growing human population is driving the rapid decline in the abundance and diversity of wildlife.” she further observed.
When passed into law, Wonegizi Multiple Use Reserve will become the second of its kind in Liberia, after the Lake Pisco Multiple Use Reserve. Unlike national parks and nature reserves which are strictly protected from being used by humans, multiple use reserves are allowed to host human interactions; however, guided by regulations.
Scientifically, Wonegizi stands at the vertex of global admiration because it contains a safe corridor for wildlife between Guinea and Liberia while traditionally hosting threatened fauna and flora species including the pigmy hippo and forest elephants, among several others.
When finalized, the draft gazettement package is expected to be forwarded to the President of Liberia for approbation and onward submission to the National Legislature for passage into law.