Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia Form New Law Enforcement Committee to Protect the Transboundary Tai-Grebo-Krahn-Sapo Forest

Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia Form New Law Enforcement Committee to Protect the Transboundary Tai-Grebo-Krahn-Sapo Forest
December 4, 2018 10:13 am Blog

Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia are making headway in their steadfast commitment to protecting the unparalleled biodiversity of the Tai-Grebo-Krahn-Sapo (TGS) Forest and related Protected Areas, which straddle the border between the two countries. A first for both countries, the Transboundary Law Enforcement Committee was established to support effective management of the forest landscape and is unique in that it explicitly takes into account the interests of forest-edge communities and other relevant stakeholder groups. The Committee will serve as a platform for continual dialogue around forest conservation and management issues. Hunting, mining and deforestation are among the many challenges that have menaced the forest for years, but this transboundary cooperation is a solid step forward to secure a sustainable future for the TGKS Forest and its residents.

Working together for conservation
Working together for conservation

 

Spanning over one million hectares, the TGKS Forest is one of the remaining global biodiversity hotspots and the largest tract of contiguous forest left in the entire Upper Guinean Forest Ecosystem. Despite being recognized for its environmental importance, the forest is under threat from various human activities, and part of the Committee’s roles is to help regulate these activities as per national and international laws and conventions. Threats to the forest include the extraction of protected wildlife species for trade purposes, hunting by locals and immigrants, logging of protected tree species, harvesting of roots for the chewing stick trade in parts of West Africa, mining and converting natural areas into commercial cocoa and oil palm plantations.

The Transboundary Law Enforcement Committee was established as part of an initiative to protect and sustainably manage the TGKS Forest and the invaluable ecosystem services, such as water and medicines that they provide. Its inaugural meeting took place on November 6-7, 2018 in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire and member institutions reviewed existing legislation on forest management and trade in natural resources, identified environmental conservation issues common to both countries and defined the direction and functioning of the committee. The establishment of the Committee was recommended at the 4th Bilateral Steering Committee Meeting on the TGKS, held in Monrovia, Liberia in May of 2016. The USAID-funded West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change (WA BiCC) Program, together with partner Wild Chimpanzee Foundation, facilitated the establishment of this committee The pair placed a strong emphasis on the promotion of biodiversity conservation and its links to carbon sequestration and food security.

Other participants at the meeting included community representatives, magistrates, police, customs and foresters from the two countries. Local Chiefs of communities around the TGKS also pledged intolerance toward illegal activities.

According to the Action Plan agreed at the first meeting, the Committee will meet twice every year and will organize four planning meetings per year with communities around the TGKS to assess progress, identify issues and adapt the Actin Plans as needed. The Committee will also be responsible for planning and executing cross-border law enforcement operations as well as undertaking awareness-raising initiatives in collaboration with civil society organizations and sharing information on forest regulations and existing agreements in both French and English.

The Committee reported on the outcomes of the first meeting, including a roadmap to facilitate their operations, at the 5th Bilateral Steering Committee Meeting of the Transboundary Forest Landscape. During the meeting – held in November 2018 in Abidjan, the Bilateral Steering Committee approved the proposed roadmap ahead of the next Law Enforcement Committee meeting in March 2019 in Monrovia.

This initiative marks the two countries’ historic resolve to end illegal activities that endanger the wildlife and communities that depend on the TGKS Forest for survival. With the support of communities and local leaders, Committee members and all stakeholders hope the forest’s remarkable biodiversity will remain in perpetuity for future generations.