Which would you like first, the good news or the bad news? Let’s get the nastiness out of the way first and save the best for last.
Usually when we read about Liberia in West Africa it’s about civil war, economic crises or disease as with the recent recurrence of the deadly Ebola virus. Liberia experienced two civil wars within a 20-year period, one in the 80’s and the other as recently as 2003 and 2004. These civil wars have left the country poor and, as described in this project, ecologically destroyed.
Currently only 3.9% of Liberia’s forests are protected. With the heavy economic necessities the country faces it has decided most recently to go gung ho on the exploitation of mineral extraction and forestry. See the map included showing the proposed development projects. The ban on timber exports was repealed in 2006 and since then over 20,000 square kilometers of forest have already been assigned as forestry concessions and awarded to international and local investors.
Sounds pretty bad, eh? But the good news…an international team of researchers from the Max Planke Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany has just finished “counting” all of the chimpanzees and other large mammals in the country and found something amazing…Liberia has the second largest population of West African chimpanzees after Guinea. The census revealed that 7000 chimpanzees make Liberia their home and only 30% of them live within the protected forest areas.
The inventory gives weight to preserving and increasing protected areas and consideration for future projects by calling attention to this large group of chimps. The researchers feel they have done a great service to the chimpanzees and other mammals that are struggling to survive in this war torn country.
Because of you we have a good start and can finish the funding of this educational reforestation project. This particular project has the potential to uplift a country, its people and environment to its previous levels and higher. Who knows, with that kind of change the chimp populations could increase even more, so come on everyone…
LET’S GET PLANTING!
I was hoping my partner, Neabei Toah who helped me develop this worthy project, would be able to send us a few paragraphs about what’s happening in his country, Liberia, West Afrika. But alas, he has many challenges that make it impossible for him to communicate with me on a regular basis and he has no camera to send us images. The camera and computer are part of the budget for this project and when enough funding is received for those items Neabei will be able to help us better.
Neabei and his family were farmers before the tragic 25 years civil war. They still have the land but all the structures were long ago destroyed as an effect of the war. But with recent advances by the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Florence Chenoweth, they may have the opportunity to return to their farm. They were forced to move to the capital city of Monrovia during the war for lack of a place to live.
Between ¼ and ½ million Liberians died during the war and ALL wild animals and livestock were eaten. The forest we will restore at the University for this project was cut down for firewood, even the precious woods.
Dr. Chenoweth, a world respected human rights expert and Africa Prize winner, is looking to recover farming as a national productive activity now that the war is over. She has the HUGE task of bringing the previous subsistence farm sector (all of Liberia) into the 21st Century. If anyone can do it she can. After the first democratic election 8 years ago the farming comeback is super slow.
When the Ministry of Agriculture first started out they didn’t even have a germ plasm or seed to plant in the Earth and almost no animals lived because after 25 years of war the people ate everything that moved. They re-opened their agricultural research station and it is now almost self-sufficient in seed production.
Strangely the tropical forests in Liberia have created a problem for the agricultural sector because of the diseases and pests in them. Because there haven’t been any agricultural practices during the war years the pests have spread to nearby farms and some invaded deep into the soils.
The population of Liberia is 3.5 million people and women are the traditional farmers. Here’s the problem though…since virtually everyone lived in refugee camps for 20 – 25 years the older women, the farmers, have passed on without passing on their farming knowledge to the younger women. Dr. Chenoweth expresses the vital need for training programs in farming and planting for today’s women.
Our project, “Educational Reforestation in War Torn Liberia” has an all woman planting crew. ALL of funding needed to implement the project will be used to address forestry education, sustainability and climate change adaptation, to replace the small forest at the University biology station that was destroyed during the war and to inspire hope in a people downtrodden and sick from a very long war. Come on everybody...
Let’s Get Planting, Liberia!
The previous progress report was written by my partner, Neabei Toah in Liberia, who helped me develop this worthy project. I asked him to write this one since he’s there but he is unable, because he is there! Let me explain…
These past two months have been terribly challenging for Neabei and his family. They are hungry most of the time and must live in the crowded city of Monrovia.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberia) During the most critical times Neabei and I have been in constant communication via Facebook messaging when he has a signal. At one point his fiancée was very ill with severe stomach and intestinal pains. They have no money to get help from a doctor and finally Neabei realized is was happening because she wouldn’t eat enough, was going long periods with no food. One of the saddest things is that Neabei and his father have a small farm in Tappita where they used to have a piggery and crops but the house and other structures were destroyed during the 14 years of civil war there and this forced them to migrate to the city.
Being on this side of the “pond”, in Costa Rica, I silently brainstormed how I could get help for Neabei and sent out a letter to a few people that were acquainted with him or had contacts in Afrika. A friend, another CEO of a non-profit in the UK, responded that she had recently met a man from the Sustainability Institute in Liberia at a conference and gave me his contact info. I asked if he or someone could visit Neabei and his family, assess his situation and inform me so I'd know how to proceed.
Neabei received a call from the functionary saying he’d be over in 4 days for a visit but that was over two weeks ago, Neabei is still waiting.
There hasn’t been much word from Neabei the past week. I asked him to write the report over a week ago and he responded that he would try but didn’t know with the challenges he’s facing. Today he wrote saying it would be impossible and he has no camera.
Did you know that 85% of the population in Liberia lives below the International Poverty Level due to the past civil wars? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberia
A camera is part of th peroject budget, so that Neabei will be able to keep us up to date with the progress of the “trees planting” at the University of Liberia. This project reaches much farther than the two hectares we plan to reforest because a large part includes national promotion and education, a green rebuilding of this war torn, defeated country with a proud and courageous people.
This is the opportunity so…LET’S GET PLANTING!
There would have certainly been no need absolutely for trees planting in Liberia if the forest was not under tremendous threat by humans’ daily destructive activities otherwise intended for survival.
Liberia presently covers an estimated area of thirty eight (38) thousand square miles and a population of about 3.8 million inhabitants.
This report is intended to address the situation that has given rise to the need for aggressive trees planting efforts in Liberia; this situation grossly owes its source to the fourteen years of civil war which brought everyone down to nothing.
The consequences of this war are today being suffered by even the trees in the forest of Liberia. Owing to the need for survival and the post-war reconstruction, the forest is being affected by logging activities in order for the government to generate revenue to be able to provide the needed basic social services, farmers engaged in rotational bush fallowing in a subsistent way in order to feed their families, the cutting of trees for the burning of charcoal for income generation, pit sawing activities by those who earn their survival by providing planks on the local markets for furniture, etc.
Unfortunately, there is absolutely very little or no effort employed to replace these trees which are very cardinal in terms of the ecosystem and the carbon effects on the earth.
Fortunately, the University of Liberia Farm Reforestation Project is intended to replenish the University farm and will serve as a conduit through which the significance of trees planting to Liberia will be unveiled to the communities through education.
This project will be very much meaningful to Liberia at this crucial time and we will be very grateful for all that you do to enable us achieve this purpose in Liberia.
The pictures are representative evidence of logging activities in post-war Liberia. This is taking place in most parts of the country with nothing much done to replenish the damaged forests. The consequences that are creeping in are strong winds damaging homes and destroying lots properties.
There are thousands of Liberians all over the country who are surviving on pit sawing. This representative photograph is a pictorial evidence of how the forest is being affected in lieu of survival in post-war Liberia. Even though this activity existed prior to the war but was under controlled environment to a greater extent. This time around, especially where the government does not have the means to provide the needs of its citizens, everyone is doing whatever survival dictates with more pressure from the rapid population growth.
The photographs of post-war reconstruction taking place throughout the length and breadth of Liberia. All these construction works are fully dependent upon the trees for planks and is taking place every day, through the nation.
Besides the logging and pit sawing activities, there are other activities gravely affecting the trees like the burning of charcoal and rotational bush fallowing everywhere, every day in aid of survival but is not captured photographically in this report. However, subsequent reports will portray a lot more photographic evidences of ways in which the trees are being destroyed in Liberia that call for urgent attention to this project.
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