Gola Transboundary technical sub-committee meets in Sierra Leone to review action plan of Greater Gola
A two-day Gola transboundary technical sub-committee meeting was held in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on 16 and 17 August 2023. The meeting focused on the action plan for transboundary patrols and the harmonisation of legal instruments. Also high on the agenda was the development of a roadmap for the transboundary committee to support conservation and sustainable land use in the Greater Gola landscape. In declaring the meeting opened, the Terrestrial and Ecosystem Manager at the National Protected Area Authority (NPAA), Ansumana Baba Turay, expressed the need for effective cross-border collaborations, stating that whatever affects one, affects all while emphasising the need for meetings of this kind to discuss successes and challenges undermining the protection of Gola.
In his goodwill message, Jerry Yonmah, Technical Manager for Conservation at the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) of Liberia, said that a joint partnership and conservation of Gola will not only benefit communities but will benefit both countries in the landscape. He went on to say that the FDA has institutionalised several reforms on land-use issues and reaffirmed the Government of Liberia’s support to the venture.
In his contribution, the Coordinator for PAPFor activities in the Gola Rainforest National Park (GRNP), Emurana Sowa, highlighted the need for joint border patrols and the setting up of a task force to replicate the progress made by Liberia’s FDA.
Also addressing the meeting, the Mano River Union (MRU) representative spoke of the appreciation for the collaborative approach of both countries in the protection of the Greater Gola transboundary forest landscape and encouraged the countries to maintain that cooperation. The Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change of Sierra Leone, Director Lahai Kata Sam, in his statement on behalf of the Minister, said that the Upper Guinean Forest is under serious threat of deforestation. “The Government of Sierra Leone is pleased to be a part of the transboundary scheme for the security, conservation, and survival of key species,” he said, adding that the strengthening of the regional partnership indicates the commitment by both governments to protect the landscape. Participants at the two-day meeting also included paramount chiefs from both countries and other stakeholders.
The Gola Rainforest is a significant biodiversity hotspot with important wildlife, some of which is endemic to the area. The Gola also stores carbon for Liberia and Sierra Leone, and provides livelihood support for those living there, but is under immense pressure from deforestation and a decline in its wildlife population.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by the governments of Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2011 for cross-border collaboration which includes the protection, conservation, research and management of a ‘Greater Gola Transboundary Peace Park’.
At the end of day two, it was concluded that there is an urgent need to do more to ensure forest protection in the region. It was further discussed that transboundary collaboration should be strengthened, strategies should be harmonised, and activities should involve communities. The 13-point action plan developed in Liberia in 2022 was reviewed and a unanimous grade of 42 percent was awarded for programme implementation. It was also agreed that monitoring and evaluation of activities should be introduced to ensure that action points are followed through.