Communities around Camp Alpha in Gbarpolu County on March 16, 2018 unanimously agreed to allow the Forestry Development Authority to resume boundary demarcation around the Gola Forest National Park. The decision by the communities to allow the boundary demarcation to continue was reached at a mass stakeholders’ consultation organized by the Forestry Development Authority and supported by the REDD+ Liberia Forest Sector project and Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia.
The Ministry of Mines and Energy, the Liberia Immigration Service, office of Honorable Joseph Matthews, representative of District three, county and local authorities of Gbarpolu, traditional leaders as well as women, youth and other interest groups including farmers, hunters and miners attended and participated in the consultation.
Addressing the community members at the meeting, the Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority, C. Mike Doryen, reassured them that the Government of Liberia consistent with its Pro- poor agenda is committed to seeking their welfare and well being and will always seek their inputs in taking decisions that affect them. He assured the community that the decision to establish the Gola Forest National Park among other protected areas around Liberia is in the best interest of the country stressing “these protected areas will attract tourists from around the world and accrue a variety of benefits for Liberia especially communities adjacent these protected areas”. He disclosed that following the completion of the demarcation, modern infrastructure including ranger posts around the park and park headquarters would be constructed in these communities. Such construction, he said, will provide job opportunities for the locals and also create an opportunity for them to be trained at the Forestry Training Institute to prepare them for job opportunities as forest rangers and researchers. Narrating further, the FDA Boss intimated that with tourists and scientists attracted to the Park, attention would be turned to improving the road and bridges leading to the area cutting back travel time and making travel safer and interesting. He called for mutual respect among government authorities and the locals emphasizing “we will respect you and always have your inputs before taking decisions that affect you but we will not leave our staff vulnerable to attacks by anyone”. He urged the community to allow the completion of the demarcation of the park’s boundary and the conduct of park activities by the FDA and her partners following which a management plan would be developed consistent with national and international law to guide the management of the park.
For his part, the representative of District three in Gbarpolu County, Hon. Joseph Matthews, hailed the FDA for organizing the meeting and assured the community that their rights will be protected at all time and there was no need for fear. Speaking through a proxy, the Gbarpolu county lawmaker urged the community to allow the resumption and completion of the demarcation. He indicated that his office will remain engaged with the FDA in fostering the community’s interest. The District three representatives lamented that over the year’s diamonds and related mineral resources were extracted from the area without any development and stressed that when established the park will generate income and wealth to support their livelihood and development through ecotourism. He encouraged the community to remain peaceful at all time as they engage the Government of Liberia through the FDA.