Robertsports, Montserrado County – A grand launch marking the Lake Piso Multiple Use Reserve sustainable Mangrove Biodiversity mangemnt project has taken place in Robertsport City, Grand Cape Mount County with stakeholders unanimously promising to ensure the successful implementation of the project. The project titled: “Managing Mangrove Forests from Senegal to Benin is being implemented by the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) with funding support from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (ICUN).
On December 5, 2020, the FDA and the Wetlands International Africa (WIA) jointly conducted an awareness workshop held at Lake Piso where the Liberian stakeholders were urged to submit proposals in the wake of the euros 9,900,000 grant provided by the European Union to promote, protect and conserve wetlands in 9 West African countries including Liberia. The application for the grant began December 20, 2020-January 20, 2021, and Liberia was one of the successful applicants.
The project includes the grand Mano landscape of Sierra Leone and Liberia through Wetlands International Africa (WIA) and the Collectif 5Deltas who are co-applicants of the fund. The project is expected to ensure the sustainability of Regional Governance of Protected Areas in West Africa; specifically, it will link governance and production systems with mangrove conservation at the territorial and is expected to achieve integrated protection of the diversity and fragile mangrove ecosystems and their greater resilience to climate change. Basically, the project aims to support local initiatives for biodiversity conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources on a landscape level. It equally focuses on supporting local initiatives for biodiversity conservation, monitoring, resource development, training as well as the establishment of new protected areas with the view to effectively contributing to the resilience of mangrove ecosystems and the social-economic well-being of communities in the sub-region.
Naturally, mangroves are trees that grow in the wetlands and serve as a home for aquatic wildlife including crocodiles which are listed amongst the critically endangered animals and are to be protected under international protocols to which Liberia is a signatory. It’s scientifically proven that about fifty percent of fish lay their eggs in the mangroves thereby making it also important as far as the growth of fish is concerned. They are vital to coastal communities and act as buffers to storm surges, forming a natural barrier between the ocean and coastal communities. But mangroves are being lost at a faster rate than any other type of forest. Mangroves to reduce storm surge by as much as 50 centimeters (20 inches) per kilometer of mangrove width. They also essentially serve as flood defense which also makes their conservation and protection compelling and mandatory. The destruction of the mangroves by any community is an indirect invitation to flood.
In his official launching statement in the presence of local government officials, traditional leaders, youth groups, women groups, amongst others, FDA Deputy Managing Director for Operations, Joseph J. Tally underscored the overriding importance of the wetlands and expressed the compelling need for all Liberians to protect the forest to benefit themselves and generations in waiting. He said God has endowed Liberia with such great treasure with the expectation that it be wisely used. “Let us obey and pay attention to God’s command which has to do with the conservation of nature. The forest was given to us by God with the command to dress it, keep it and protect the animals is “for your good and that of the future generation.” He warned that whenever these animals and forests disappear as a result of their illegal destruction, human beings too equally stand to disappear. He then advised Liberians to sustainably manage these treasures adding, “Stop killing the animals, stop making farms inside the forest, stop abusing the law, stop doing those things that will undermine future generations, etc…”
In separate statements, the Superintendents of Grand Cape Mount and Bomi Counties, Aaron B. Vincent and Adama Robinson pledged to cooperate with the stakeholders in the discharge of the implementation of the project. They used the occasion to call for more livelihood supports to abort possible temptations that could lead the community dwellers to destroy the forest and the mangroves and thanked the FDA and the originator of the project for their dream and vision to protect the mangroves and the forest which they said equally forms the dream of the government.
For his part, the Project Coordinator Mr. Osuman G. Kiazolu provided the overview of the project which currently area covers about 97,159 ha as well as the way forward as it relates to its implementation including assessing existing organizations, creating mangrove conservation management committee,training committee members in fundraising, leadership, and governance, and mangrove conservation techniques. Others include registration of committee to the relevant authority, organizing Joint Patrols with relevant actors to Monitor and document illegal activities every quarter, conducting training on patrol data collection and analysis (spatial and non-spatial),establishing a clear boundary of the area through the use of GIS.
Additionally, he stressed the of importance of protecting and conserving the mangrove biodiversity at the project site (Lake Piso Multiple Use Reserve) while calling on stakeholders from both Grand Cape Mount and Bomi Counties to consider the project as their own given its national and international relevance in the wake of climate change.