How a Community EcoGuard Program Helped One Woman Go from School Dropout to Breadwinner

How a Community EcoGuard Program Helped One Woman Go from School Dropout to Breadwinner
December 10, 2019 11:06 am Blog

By Jacob Tweh, Wild Chimpanzee Foundation

Many might have said that 16-year-old Linda Nyanway’s future looked bleak as she took her now-husband’s hand in marriage. Linda’s parents divorced when she was just three, leaving her to spend most of her childhood with her grandmother in River Gee County, Liberia. Her grandmother worked as a subsistence farmer trying to make ends meet for the family. But as she aged, she needed to find other means of support, so she turned to young Linda. And although Linda had dreamed of acquiring an education, like many impoverished women in River Gee County, she was forced to drop out of school and enter into an early marriage so her family could continue on.

Linda and her husband eventually had two children and started a small cocoa farm. They worked relentlessly to give their new family a better life, and although daily challenges might have pushed Linda to resign to the fate of hardship that was expected of her, she remained optimistic that her hard work would someday be rewarded.

One day in October of 2018, Linda heard that female “community ecoguards” were being recruited by the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation and the Forestry Development Authority. The community ecoguard program, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change program, enlists the help of community members to patrol and protect the Grebo-Krahn National Park (GKNP) in River Gee and Grand Gedeh Counties. Even though she had doubts—about her education, about her income, about her gender—Linda applied anyway. And she got the job.

When the training program began, Linda excelled at every aspect, even asking to borrow equipment overnight in order to practice at home. It wasn’t long before she began to teach her colleagues and help them prepare for the final evaluation exercise. She was one of the few trainees who finished the final exercise before the expected time. Her training facilitator, Clement Tweh, was quick to sing her praises:

“In the past 7 years, I have trained many young men and women. But Linda has proven to be exceptional,” he said. “The bravery, enthusiasm, strength, intelligence, and inquisitiveness she has shown during the community ecoguard training is absolutely extraordinary. She remains the greatest of all time since my existence as a facilitator.”

Since her first patrol in January 2019, Linda has made over five patrols for which she earns a monthly stipend. With a reliable source of income, and a role that allows her dedication to be rewarded, she can now proudly provide the quality of life she had before only dreamed of for herself and her family.

“I’m now building my modern house in my town, sending my children to school, and providing some financial assistance to my external family members,” she says. “I’m a breadwinner to my family through WCF’s community ecoguard program.”

A woman making a speech in a hall.
Community ecoguard Linda Nyanway shares her experience with participants at the WA BiCC Radio Drama Design Workshop in Monrovia, Liberia. Photo by WCF staff


Linda is one of 11 women participating in the community ecoguard program and contributing to their families in a way that was previously unheard of. These brave locals play a critical role in conserving the wildlife and forest landscape of GKNP by creating awareness in communities; patrolling the forest; collecting scientific data on wildlife and illegal activities; taking GPS coordinates; and serving as a deterrent to hunters, illegal miners, and other encroachers.

Linda is now a far cry from the 16-year-old girl who was unsure what the future brought. She is now the confident provider for two beautiful children and a loving husband. Her story illustrates how involving women in conservation contributes not only to the preservation of ecologically important areas, but also to the economic and social independence of a group who have culturally been cast aside. A win-win for conservation and women.

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