The Governments of Sierra Leone have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Liberia to jointly manage the protection of the Gola Rainforest National Park on Tuesday 18 February 2020 at the C. Cecil Dennis Hall, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Liberia.
Sierra Leone’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture Samking Koihinah Braima, signed on behalf of Sierra Leone, and Liberia’s Foreign Minister Gbezhongar Findley signed on behalf of Liberia.
The management agreement is an amended Memorandum of Understanding, which obligates both parties to jointly share the management of the forest, including the protection of its biodiversity and all others related to conservation.
The forest landscape, also known as the Gola Transboundary Peace Park, is home to the Gola Rainforest National Park in Sierra Leone and the Gola Forest National Park in Liberia. Together, the forests span more than 350,000 hectares and represent one of the largest remaining blocks of the Upper Guinea Forest.
Initially recognized as a biodiversity hotspot, these shared forests are home to more than 899 vascular plants, 49 mammals, 327 bird species, and 43 amphibians. Many of the wildlife and plants are threatened or critically endangered, including Rosewood, the forest elephant, West African chimpanzee, Western Red Colobus Monkey, and Pygmy Hippopotamus.
The forest plays a critical function through the range of ecosystem services that it provides and contributes to the mitigation of climate change. Thus, its health is of global importance.
In 2011, the government of Sierra Leone and Liberia signed an MOU of cooperation in the management, research, protection and conservation of the Greater Gola Transboundary Peace Park. And in doing so, they noted their mutual interest in continuing and strengthening joint management and conservation of national parks close to or contiguous with the border for the purpose of conserving shared resources and ecosystems.
However, much of the needed work by the Coordination Committee came to a standstill, because of lack of resources.
Understanding the importance of putting the MoU into action, the USAID-funded West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change (WA BiCC) program has been a key partner to both countries in their quest to better protect the forest.
In 2018, WA BiCC supported a meeting of technical representatives to lay the groundwork for the first meeting of the Coordination Committee, including the development of a draft work plan. In 2019, WA BiCC supported the first meeting of the Coordination Committee in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and later played a key role in reviewing the suggested amendments.
Through signing the amendments, Sierra Leone and Liberia will refocus their efforts on preserving their shared resource. And together, they might curtail the main drivers of the forest’s continued degradation and biodiversity loss, including illegal hunting and poaching, mining, pit logging, and agricultural encroachment.