Gola Forest Transboundary Peace Park was opened in 2009. The forest is important for the people in terms of providing water and hinder soil erosion, which is important for agriculture.
Photo: Guy Shorrock/RSPB
Valuable rainforest protected
It was a big day when the Gola Forest Trans-boundary Peace Park was opened on 15 May 2009. This means that, in total, 75,000 hectares of land in Sierra Leone (Gola Forest) and 180,000 hectares in Liberia (Lofa and Foya Forest Reserves) are protected.
At the opening, both Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma expressed their joy at the area being protected.
Johnson-Sirleaf also sees it as a symbol for peace and stability, according to Birdlife.org.
David Ziller, project manager of the Gola Forest Programme, says:
“Peaceful elections and popular support for the two presidents made this possible. Both of them also have a genuinely desired a change for the better.”
Ziller has spent his life protecting nature areas and sees the Gola Forest Trans-boundary Peace Park as an important step.
National park home to 250 species of bird
The forest is one of the last remaining rainforests in Africa and is one of the world’s richest in terms of species.
There are many reasons for protecting the area. One important reason is the climate, principally in the region, but also globally. Rainforests are important for reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Another reason is to maintain biological diversity. Gola Forest is home to 250 species of birds and 50 mammals, many of which are endangered.
The forest is also important for the people who live in the area, for example in terms of providing water. It also hinders soil erosion, which is important for agriculture.
“Studies from the World Bank show that 22 per cent of local people get their subsistence from the forest,” Zeller says. “Like world heritage sites, peace parks are important to tourism.”
Sweden and Sida are contributing to the Trans-boundary Peace Park through the EU.
“The park will be protected thanks to political will, strong legislation, support from the civil society and well-educated staff,” Zeller says.