Liberia: Sapo Conservation Center Launched
Liberia is steadily progressing towards a scientific and conservation research at the Sapo National Park in Jalay's Town, Upper Juarzon Statutory District Sinoe County.
The Sapo Conservation Center (SCC) is created to train Liberian Forestry students and professionals in biodiversity conservation and research to facilitate access to Liberia's biodiversity for national and international researchers.
The SCC is supervised by a steering committee which includes the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), University of Liberia(UL), Fauna & Flora International, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Forestry Training Institute(FTI), the Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia and the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA).
The launching of the program was held alongside the 30th anniversary celebration of the creation of the Sapo National Park in 1983.
The Minister of Internal Affairs who cut the ribbon of the SCC on behalf of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf congratulated the FDA and all of the partners who made the SCC project a success story.
Thirty years of existence is a great milestone, though significant portion of these years were the time of Liberia's troubled years, he noted.
Nevertheless, Minister Dukuly indicated that there were equally people who persisted that conservation be kept alive for which advances are made to have the SCC.
He commended one of Liberia's most recognized conventionalists and a top soccer legend Alexander Peal for keeping the spirit of conservation alive.
Minister Dukuly challenged researchers to find alternative means for coal producers who indiscriminately burn coals and consistently destroy the environment to be avoided.
"The fact is a hungry man is an angry man, we will not stop the production of coals but we must keep at the back of our minds of climate change; the forest is serving an important purpose and needs the protection of all of us, Minister Dukuly concluded.
The Sinoe County Legislative Caucus' Representative to the program, Hon Matthew Zarzar on behalf of his colleagues expressed delight for the transformation that is taking place in the park.
Honorable Zarzar who stressed on the alternative livelihood of the people reiterated the call for the government and other partners to find sources by which the citizens dwelling at the fringes of the park will avoid illegal entrance.
The Interim Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) Harrison S. Karnwea, Sr. informed the people of Sinoe that they were in an advantageous position with the SNP, and stressed the importance of the forest.
Hon. Karnwea who earlier met with the Forest Rangers assigned at the SNP commended them for their resilience and commitment to the sacrifices they continue to make.
"You have related to the citizens in these communities and that is the reason for which you are succeeding, there will be no protection when they are against you", he stressed.
He told the rangers that the Management is aware that the support is not forthcoming, they have no vehicle and some of them earn as low as US$40.00 as salary which is below the government salary range but assured them that the FDA management is progressively working with the Ministry of Finance to find an amicable solution.
The country Director of FFI said educating the new generation is the priority of the entity, noting that knowledge worth nothing if it is not used.
Jean Lund Hansen said the SCC will serve as a conduit to link the University of Liberia and other universities from around the world to compute in research work.
He was critical of those things that have the potential to threaten the natural habitat of plants and animals within the SNP.
He made specific reference to logging, the oil palm plantation, the rail from Gedeh Mountain to the port of Greenville and all activities that are not conservation friendly.
He said the issue of land use planning was another activity he noted should be introduced in an attempt to properly monitor and supervise how the land is used.
He called on foreign donors to fully support the park because it has a great potential that is of benefit not to Liberia but the entire world.
The program was attended by an array of Government Officials, Local and Traditional Leaders, Partners among several others.
Those that attended the program included FDA, MIA, Superintendent from Grand Gedeh, Sinoe and River Gee Counties respectively; Commissioners, Paramount, Clan, Town chiefs, Women, Youth, Elders and Zoes.
Other partners included; FFI, USAID, FTI, US Embassy, UL, Conservation for International Trade and Endanger Species -Mike, and the Consultants from the Germany Development Bank.