FDA, REDD+ conclude ground hog farming training in Nimba -40 rangers and local community leaders benefitted

The Forestry Development Authority (FDA) with support through the Liberia Forest Sector Project (LFSP)/ REDD+ has concluded a ten-day intensive training workshop for 40 Forest Rangers and local community leaders. The training was held in Zortapa Town, Nimba County at the East Nimba Nature Reserve. The training geared at enabling communities adopt sustainable livelihood alternatives that could reduce pressure on the forest as well as enhance wildlife protection, increase income and growth of protein sources for forest dependent communities especially in and around protected areas.

Consistent with its legislative mandate, creating and effectively managing protected areas are a part of FDA’s approach for sustainable forest management in line with the National Forestry Reform Law (NFRL) of 2006 requiring Liberia to put 30% of the remaining forest under protection. With rural communities heavily reliant on forest resources and products, including bush meat for livelihood, providing alternative livelihood for forest communities is required for sustainable management of protected areas.

Given its significance, the training brought together 40 rangers and targeted community leaders from protected areas (PA) and proposed protected areas (PPA) across Liberia including ENNR, Sapo National Park, Gola Forest National Park, Wonegizi PPA, Lake Piso Multiple-use Reserve and Grebo- Krahn PA as well as the Forestry Training Institute in Tubmanburg, Bomi County.

Amongst other pertinent agenda items, the workshop stressed on maximizing awareness amongst local forest communities in in the country regarding the sustainable use of forest resources, especially at a time when efforts are being exerted by the Forestry Development Authority and its local and international partners to prohibit the illegal habits of hunting, killing and selling of  endangered animals and bush meat trade across the country.

Currently, Liberia’s remaining forest estate is under immense pressure in the wake of increasing demand for bush meat and other flora resources.

Making special remarks at the opening ceremony, the Technical Manager of the conservation Department, Blama Goll extolled the REDD+ team for supporting the Cane Rat (ground hog) project which he said will go a long way in buttressing conservation initiatives. He encouraged the participants to accurately and efficiently utilize the knowledge acquired to benefit their respective communities. He urged them to take ownership of ground hog reproduction as it is “very important and profitable for sustainable livelihood.”

The National Coordinator for the REED + Program in Liberia, Mr. Saah A. David, Jr. for his part, acknowledged the Norwegian Government and the World Bank for providing the funds and the Government of Liberia for creating the enabling environment that led to the successful holding of the training program. He cherished the concept of the cane rat project and used the occasion to recount  the roles of the Liberia Forest Sector Project (LFSP) and the many contributions of LFSP in the sustainable management of the forest and related forest resources.

Mr. David then reaffirmed LFSP’s commitment to persistently support in properly managing the forest and its resources in a sustainable manner for present and future generations while rubbishing the circulating rumors that LFSP is in Liberia to discourage farming and logging activities. He expressed the need for the construction of Cane Rat breeding facilities in the South Eastern and North Western parts of the country especially around the six (6) protected areas. Like other speakers he urged the participants to be proactive and organize themselves to establish self-help initiatives that could attract support as it relates to sustainable livelihood activities.

The lead consultant and founder of the Cane Rat project, Edward G. Gbeintor also making remark, stressed the importance of the exercise considering its profitability and urged the participants give it their utmost attention. He said Nimba was selected to begin the pilot project since it has the history of Cane Rat raising facility and as such it was better to resuscitate the program there. He thanked both FDA and REDD+ for accepting and supporting the concept of the project and promised that the exercise will realize its intended purpose.

The Executive Director at the Forestry Training Institute (FTI), Mr. Joel D. Gamys who also served as one of the facilitators embraced the idea of cane rat production in Liberia and expressed his institution’s readiness to provide technical support to interested breeders of Cane Rat in all protected areas and forest communities around Liberia.  He called on the participants to unite and uphold the culture of preserving wildlife species for the benefit of posterity.

The lead facilitator and trainer of the training, Joseph K. Wleah for his part described Cane Rat raising as delicate venture that requires care, passion, attention, dedication and timeliness.  He admonished the participants to develop love and deep passion for Cane Rat reproduction which he said is a lucrative business venture.

With more than thirty four years (34) experience in conservation and bio-monitoring, Mr. Wleah is generally ranked the best Cane Rat trainer in Liberia. A 1984 graduate from the Forestry Training Institute (FTI) in Bomi County, he holds Advanced Certificate in General Forestry and has served as Forest Ranger for more than Twenty Five (25) Years. In 2009, Mr. Wleah successfully reared Twenty (20) Cane Rats brought in from Guinea and increased the number to Two Hundred and Thirteen (213).

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