The Gola Forest Programme (GFP) has concluded a two days training workshop for about eighteen herbalists from Bari and Makpele chiefdoms in the Pujehun district, Malema chiefdom in the Kailahun district and Kona, Tunkia, Gaura and Nomo chiefdoms in the Kenema district.
Andrew Fatorma the training and development coordinator said the objectives of the workshop is for the herbalist to get a feel of the forest, to increase their knowledge on judicious use of the forests in getting their herbs and other forest products and to write a communiqué at the end of the workshop. Also to upgrade the protection status of Gola Forest to a National Park and to ensure that local people benefit from the conservation of the forest.
Giving the overview of the workshop the Superintendent of Community Development and Outreach Mannah Ibrahim Swarray explained that the programme is operating in seven chiefdoms in both the East and South of the country. He said the Gola Forest is a fragment of the Upper Guinea forest, which is a transnational forest which passes through the borders of five nations i.e. Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast and Benin. The upper Guinea forest is very rich in Biodiversity, and has been regarded as a rich and critically threatened ecosystem and a vital component for conservation action. Mr. Fatorma disclosed to his audience that the Gola Forest has been of great importance to the community and outlined some of the benefits to the communities up to date which includes $35,000 or Le 105 million payment to forest edge communities, support to paramount chiefs: $1,000 or Le 3 million for every paramount chief each year, Land owners support fund: $ 28,000 or Le 84 million each year; Community development fund: $10,000 or Le 30 million each year for each Chiefdom for ever; scholarship funds: $ 7,500 or Le 21 million each year; support to district councils $1,000 or Le 3 million each year to each district council. He said the Gola forest has Partners like the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (CSSL) Forestry Division under the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, and the seven Gola Communities. The major donors EU, Global Conservation Fund, Fonds Francais pour l’Environnement Mondial (FFEM) and Bird life in France and Bird Life Secretariat.