Zambezi visitors from Liberia

IRDNC Zambezi hosted visitors from Liberia on a learning exchange trip earlier in the year. The trip consisted of three officials, the Deputy Director Forest Development Authority, Mr. Darlington Taugben, the Sapo National Park Warden Mr Jallah Johnson and Ms Mary Molokwu-Odozi from Flora & Fauna International (FFI).

The main purpose of the exchange trip was to learn from the Namibian CBNRM experience. The FFI planned this study trip for the Forest Development Authority (FDA), as they plan to introduce a community-based management structure for forests surrounding the Sapo National Park in Liberia. CBNRM is new and almost non-existent in Liberia and many projects that attempt to embark on similar initiatives have not been successful, partly because they have struggled to effectively build capacity of local communities to independently manage their forests. Also, communities have not been fully convinced that any benefits could come from managing forests sustainably for wildlife conservation. With the few community forests established across Liberia, communities prefer to manage these forests for logging because they gain monetary benefits, which they do not foresee with biodiversity conservation.

FFI was most interested in learning (and showing FDA) how communities’ capacity could be built in community-led natural resource management, enterprise development, governance and conflict resolution as well as benefits that could be gained from conservation. They were particularly interested in tourism joint venture models and the traditional governance structures to combat wildlife crime.

In Zambezi, the visitors were able to observe the kind of technical and institutional capacity needed for communities to be able to manage their forests, the benefits they can derive from conserving their forests and how CBNRM can be sustained in the long-term.

The delegates and the IRDNC staff paid a visit to Bamunu and Wuparo Conservancies to meet with the conservancy committees and discuss tourism benefits, the new “Wildlife Credit Scheme”, member involvement in conservancy decision-making, governance and financial management. A visit was organised to the Wuparo’s community campsite and their overnight at Wuparo’s joint venture lodge (Nkasa-Lupala Tented Camp) provided an opportunity to obtain an overview of tourism joint venture issues from the perspective of private sector operator. A meeting with Mayuni, Mashi and Kwandu Conservancies and their game guards focused on community rangers, wildlife monitoring, game counts and local-level natural resource monitoring system, landscape level ‘complexes’ and combating wildlife crime. A visit to Mashi Craft Centre, a community craft market, provided an insight how community enterprises can be effectively managed for the benefit of their members, while the Kyaramacan Association represents the management of people living inside the National Park. This was quite an important and eye opening experience for the Liberian officials because they work in a similar environment with communities living in and adjacent to the Sapo National Park.