Breaking Silos in the Mano River Union Transboundary Landscapes: Guinea, Liberia and Partners Come Together to Launch Conservation Initiative

Breaking Silos in the Mano River Union Transboundary Landscapes: Guinea, Liberia and Partners Come Together to Launch Conservation Initiative
October 22, 2018 11:56 am News

The “Conservation and Connection of Ziama-Wonegizi-Wologizi (ZWW) Forest Landscape between Guinea and Liberia” initiative was launched on October 19, 2018 in N’Zerekore, the capital of Guinea’s Forest Region. The objective of the initiative, financed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change (WA BiCC) Program, is to protect one of the world’s most precious ecosystems, which holds one of the largest remaining intact blocks of West Africa’s Upper Guinean Rainforest. The event brought together key partners who will implement this transboundary activity, which aims to safeguard the future of this forest that is rich in globally unique biodiversity while ensuring that neighboring communities have the means to prosper in harmony with conservation for the benefit of both.

In Guinea, the ZWW initiative is being implemented jointly by Guinea’s Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests (MEEF) through the N’Zérékoré Forest Center (CFZ) in close coordination with partners including the European Union/United Nations for Proect Services, and the Global Environment Facility through the Mano River Union (MRU) Secretariat. Liberia’s Forestry Development Authority (FDA) oversees the implementation of activities in that country. WA BiCC’s transboundary support is provided through a grant to Fauna & Flora International (FFI), which has been working in the Ziama and surrounding area since 2009.

Abdoulaye Doumbia of the MRU noted that “MRU Member States are putting 6.9 million dollars in 4 MRU transboundary forest landscapes including ZWW through a project funded by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and co-implemented by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).” Dominique Endamana of IUCN’s West and Central Programme Office said, “Collaboration and coordination between the IUCN-MRU and WA BiCC projects is very important as the two projects have similar objectives.”

Other dignitaries included Elhaj Sebastien Tounkara, Governor of the Forest Region of Guinea, Dr. Seydou Bari Sidibe, Secretary General of Guinea’s Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests, C. Mike Doryen, Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority-Liberia, Madame Watta Camara, Managing Director of CFZ, Angelique Todd, FFI Senior Program Manager for West and Central Africa and WA BiCC’s Chief of Party Stephen Kelleher and Forest and Landscape Specialist Dr. Nouhou Ndam.

“Our presence here today should signal a new relationship between partners in the region to protect our forest in a more sustainable manner. Based on what I’ve seen in the presentations today, Guinea has a decentralized conservation program, which we don’t really have in Liberia. So, I want to propose a study tour that would allow us to learn and capture best practices from Guinea,” said C. Mike Doryen, Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority-Liberia.

Photograph of the MEEF Secretary-General, Seydou Bari Sidibe and FDA Managing Director shaking hands
MEEF Secretary-General, Seydou Bari Sidibe (left) and FDA Managing Director, C. Mike Doryen (right)


Dr. Seydou Bari Sidibe, Secretary General of the Guinea Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests said, “The American people’s support to Guinea has been consistent over the years and we are grateful. This current support to FFI for both Guinea and Liberia aims to build the capacities of FDA and CFZ to manage ZWW. I want to call on all communities around ZWW to support the success of the WA BiCC project.”

In his remarks, Stephen Kelleher, WA BiCC Chief of Party emphasized, “The grant will promote biodiversity conservation, good governance and livelihood opportunities while encouraging the sharing of ideas and information. Learning by doing and sharing effective forest management practices will not only strengthen local interventions but inform more relevant local, national and regional policies in support of community-based conservation efforts.”

Seated from left to right on the high table: : Abdoulaye Doumbia (MRU), Stephen Kelleher (WA BiCC COP) and Mayor of N’Zerekore.
WA BiCC’s Chief of Party, Stephen Kelleher, giving his opening remarks. (Seated from left to right): : Abdoulaye Doumbia (MRU), Stephen Kelleher (WA BiCC COP) and Mayor of N’Zerekore.


Over 70 people participated in the event including local leaders from both countries. Information about the initiative was disseminated on Guinea National Radio (RTG), which covers the entire country including communities within the Forest Region. The day ended with a planning session for the first ever bilateral meeting between Guinea and Liberia on the conservation of ZWW in an added effort to encourage actors to work together and break silos in the Mano River Union transboundary forest landscapes.

The Landscape

ZWW is home to more than 25% of Africa’s mammals, including flagship species such as the critically endangered western chimpanzee, the endangered and endemic pygmy hippopotamus (endemic to the forests of Liberia, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone) and the vulnerable African forest elephant, as the forest landscape is one of their last viable, intact habitats in West Africa.

A wide shot of the Ziama Forest in Guinea
The Ziama Forest, Guinea


However, the 114,800 ha ZWW forest is facing several complex threats including forest degradation and habitat loss from agricultural encroachment and expansion, the abusive felling of wood for timber and wood energy leading to the fragmentation of the habitats of threatened species such as elephants. These challenges are exacerbated by the impacts of climate change and inadequate resources to enforce existing and supportive policies for natural resource management. The forests of Guinea and Liberia have declined immensely from continued forest clearance. Guinea’s forests areas decreased by about 33% to only 444,000 hectares between 1975 and 2013 and Liberia’s forest cover recorded a decrease of 12.2% (600,000 ha) between 1990 and 2010 alone.


A close-up shot of a chimpanzee
The western chimpanzee is critically endangered and threatened by poaching activities as well as habitat loss. (photo credit:



A curled up pangolin in its natural habitat.
The pangolin, also known as the scaly anteater, is currently the world’s most trafficked animal.


The activities planned under the grant are intended to help achieve the socio-economic and biodiversity objectives of both countries as defined in policies and programs such as Guinea’s National Economic and Social Development Plan (2016 – 2020) and Liberia’s Draft National Biodiversity Strategic and Action Plan (2015). This will also contribute to both countries’ Development Agendas.

The staff of the N’Zerekore Forestry Center under Guinea’s Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests, Liberia’s Forestry Development Authority and local communities will be trained in protected area management and methods to improve livelihoods such as sustainable agriculture and natural resource use. It will also identify, apply, adapt and share best practices, facilitate exchange visits between the two countries, and increase general knowledge and understanding of the importance of forests and biodiversity through mass media campaigns. It will also encourage responsible attitudes and best practices that strengthen local interventions and enhance policy initiatives at the national and West African regional levels.


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