December 2, 2022 - Monrovia. The Government of Liberia, through the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), has revised and signed an extension of the Co-Management Agreement (CMA) with the communities represented by the Co-Management Committee (CMC), for the management of the East Nimba Nature Reserve (ENNR). Established in 2003, the ENNR is managed as a Strict Nature Reserve and is the first and only Protected Area (PA) in Liberia to be co-managed by the Government of Liberia (GoL) and local communities. Disagreement about the boundary line and continued encroachment, poaching, and illegal chainsaw activities resulted in perennial conflict between the FDA and associated communities, and in 2010, with support from the USAID Land Rights & Community Forest Project, the government resolved to adopt the co-management model for ENNR.
A Co-Management Agreement (CMA) was signed between the FDA and local communities represented by the Joint Community Forest Management Body (JCFMB) of Sehyi, Gba and Zor to manage the reserve and conserve its biodiversity.
Defined by a paper in the international journal of the commons, Co-management is an important conservation model that aims to increase the legitimacy of protected areas and moderate negative attitudes toward conservation The co-management model, in the midst of the requirements of the Land Rights Act and the importance of rights-based conservation, represents the most effective governance model for managing protected and conserved areas and delivering conservation outcomes.
The ENNR CMC is composed of twelve members with six representatives each from FDA and the JCFMB of Sehyi, Gba and Zor communities. Following the first expiration of the CMA in 2016, the FDA and the CMC renewed the agreement allowing both communities and FDA to continue managing the ENNR effectively. Since 2021, upon its second expiration, efforts to renew the CMA had been ongoing, but unsuccessful. This renewal, in the midst of biodiversity loss and the need to protect forest resources, represents significant progress towards the government’s vision of promoting communities’ rights, strengthening biodiversity conservation, contributing to the nationally determined contributions (NDC) for climate change, and building an economically prosperous future through eco-tourism.
With support from USAID, through its Conservation Works activity, and Conservation International, about 54 individuals, on October 28, 2022, including representatives from the FDA, ENNR CMC, local government, Community Forest Management Bodies, local and international NGOs, and private sector actors convened. They reviewed the ENNR CMC progress, strengthened coordination between partners supporting ENNR and renewed the CMA. Key revisions to the original CMA included clarifications around the CMC's operational structure, CMC’s and FDA's rights and obligations, and financial transparency.
The revised agreement was signed by the ENNR CMC and attested by the District Commissioners of Yarmein, Sanniquellie-Mah, and Gbeley-Geh. The Managing Director, Hon. C. Mike Doryen, signed on behalf of the FDA and expressed his elation for the progress that has been made in protecting Liberia’s unique biodiversity through a partnership with the associated communities. He noted that “it is my hope that this co-management model, demonstrating success in ENNR, will be replicated to other PAs across the country until communities are involved in the management of these resources, our efforts will yield minimum results.”
This signing marks a major step towards putting communities at the center of conservation and natural resources management. The ENNR remains Liberia’s only co-managed PA and is a shining example of Government and communities working together to protect biodiversity for the benefit of everyone.