A delegation from the Mano River Union (MRU), comprising nine Liberians, 11 Guineans and nine Sierra Leoneans including the Executive Commissioner of NaCEF Chris Squire and Hassan Mohamed the deputy director of NaCEF’s Forestry Division, has paid a day’s visit to the Gola Forest.
The project leader of the Gola Forest Conservation Concession Programme (GFCCP), David A. Zeller, explained that the delegation entered the Gola Forest and reached the border demarcations and then crossed over to Tiwai Island where they embarked on a short guided walk on the Island.
“We enjoyed the natural system of Tiwai Island and interesting diversity of primates and mammals,” he disclosed, adding that, “we also paid visit to the Gola Forest communities of Pewa, Niayama, Palima and Jeneva and then continued to Tyema and Samatia villages in Bari chiefdom in Bo district. We had the opportunity to discuss with the village communities to know their feelings on trans-boundary cooperation, if there is any international border issue”.
Mr Zeller further said all countries involved in the MRU had forest reserves and that every one was interested in seeing how they would demarcate the boundary of the Forest.
“We gave them an idea of what the forest rely looks like from inside. We discussed about exchanging training between the protected areas across the board with neighbours on the issues of biodiversity and how to manage the protected areas,’ he noted.
He disclosed that the joint visit to the Forest came about as a result of the consultative meeting of the MRU specialists that took place in Freetown on 1 June 2007 between delegations from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The purpose of the consultative meeting was to discuss trans-boundary or trans-border cooperation of the protected areas.
Mr Zeller said, “trans-boundary cooperation is very necessary in protecting protected areas or managing protected areas because animals do not recognize borders. It is a nice thing to manage these forests in the three countries jointly on the regional scale, thus it will ensure great biodiversity and increase the ecosystem service which will benefit the people of both countries”.
The Technical Committee, set up, will move the concept of trans-boundary cooperation forward, which will involve other stakeholders such as the department of foreign Affairs and customs.
Four areas were identified as priorities. They are the Gola Forest of eastern Sierra Leone and western Liberia; the northern part of the country and the corresponding protected areas across the border in southern Guinea and Mount Niba complex of protected area between Guinea and Liberia.