LIBERIA: USAID launches Forestry, Biodiversity, and Conservation Center
On August 9, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) launched the Forestry, Biodiversity, and Conservation Center.
This Center is a major part of an ongoing USAID project that is partnering with historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other higher education institutions in the United States to strengthen the capacity of Liberia’s forestry and biodiversity workforce.
The Center will lead the development of a national curriculum for forestry, biodiversity, and conservation that aligns with global standards for sustainable forest management. It will also design a social inclusion strategy to empower and help provide sustainable livelihoods for women, youth, and rural, forest dwelling communities.
Speaking during the launch of the Center on Wednesday, August 9 at the University of Liberia Fendell Campus, USAID/Liberia Mission Director, Jim Wright, hailed the partnerships with HBCUs, which he said will provide “unique opportunities for Liberian and American students and faculty to collaborate on research that promotes more inclusive and sustainable socio-economic development.”
Mr. Wright praised Liberia for being the custodian of the largest remaining portions of the ecologically sensitive Upper Guinean Forest. He said it is “proper for Liberia to derive economic benefits from its vast forest resources,” but he added that it is “equally important to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of forest communities before entering agreements for the use of their ancestral lands.”
The President of the University of Liberia Dr. Julius Nelson said the university was proud to house the Forestry, Biodiversity and Conservation Center and thanked USAID for supporting forest protection and conservation in Liberia. The new Forestry, Biodiversity, and Conservation Center at the University of Liberia is supported by collaborations with the University of Georgia, Alabama A&M University, Tuskegee University, the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College, and the University Consortium for Liberia in the United States. This launch is in line with USAID’s other conservation and forest protection programs in Liberia.
These projects include the Conservation Works Activity that is working to establish new protected areas and improve livelihoods for communities in and around proposed protected forest areas. USAID is also supporting eco-tourism ventures in Cape Mount and Nimba Counties that promote the sustainable use of forests for tourism activities while creating jobs for local communities. Additionally, USAID, in partnership with the United States Forest Service, has helped the Forestry Training Institute in Tubmanburg, Bomi County develop a conservation-focused curriculum to train forest rangers and other workers who protect Liberia’s forests.