ZWEDRU, Grand Gedeh – On Oct. 16, the Forestry Development Authority and the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation convened a meeting between stakeholders from the Proposed Krahn-Bassa National Park and their counterparts from the already existent Grebo-Krahn National Park to allow them a glimpse of how the creation of a new park could affect their lives.
Over 40 participants drawn from four counties, including Grand Gedeh, Sinoe, River Cess, and Grand Bassa attended the one-day consultative meeting in Zwedru.
The participants comprised of local leaders, including youth and women representatives. Annika Hillers, the WCF country director, told reporters that her organization had been working with the FDA to create and manage protected areas and ensure the preservation of wildlife and their habitats.
A team of researchers that included Hillers concluded in 2014 that Liberia had the second largest population of western chimpanzees, a subspecies native to West Africa. This research is part of the drive for the work of WCF in Liberia.
Hillers noted that she wanted residents of the Proposed Krahn-Bassa National Park to hear from their counterparts within the Grebo-Krahn National Park to know of the benefits for people living in areas close to national parks. Among these benefits, Hillers said, was the improvement in the standard of living, reflected in better education, infrastructure, and livelihood projects.
The Grebo-Krahn National Park, which is located partly in Grand Gedeh and River Gee, near the Ivorian border, was created by law in 2017. Hillers said since then, WCF has provided training to residents in beekeeping, fish farming, and agriculture (cassava and lowland rice production). She noted that WCF had also trained ‘eco-guards’, who patrol and discourage illegal activities within the national park.
As WCF and the FDA have pushed to create the new park, which will impact communities in Grand Bassa, River Cess, and Sinoe, many community members have expressed reservations. Hillers sees consultations with local communities, such as this meeting, as a major step in creating protected areas to protect wildlife in Liberia.
Annie Pobleh, the superintendent of Tayuwon Statutory District, said she had earlier rejected the proposal by the FDA to create the national park near her community. However, after the meeting, she sees many benefits that her community will enjoy and now supports the park’s creation.
“I will encourage my people to embrace the creation of the proposed Krahn-Bassa National Park,” Pobleh said, expressing a similar enthusiasm as many other participants.
The one-day consultative meeting saw presentations on key steps in creating and managing protected forests in Liberia. Other activities included group discussions on perceived threats and recommendations on how to curb them, and sharing of success stories of beneficiaries from livelihood intervention projects undertaken by WCF and FDA.
The meeting was followed by a two-day study tour to communities near the Grebo-Krahn National Park, where WCF had made interventions. Attendees visited rice and cassava production sites, a rehabilitated school building in Klotiti, a rehabilitated bridge, a rehabilitated town hall in Baos Town, hand pumps and water wells, and many others.
Featured photo by Wild Chimpanzee Foundation