The Training of Female Community Ecoguards Boosts Protection of Liberia’s National Parks

The Training of Female Community Ecoguards Boosts Protection of Liberia’s National Parks
May 22, 2019 7:32 am Blog

All over the world, women are excelling in roles that were previously reserved for men. Living proof of this paradigm shift can be found in Liberia, where more and more women are training to be Community Ecoguards, a position that has since been perceived as male-dominated at Grebo-Krahn National Park. The active participation of women in the Ecoguard Program, run by the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation and the Forestry Development Authority with support from the USAID-funded West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change Program, is boosting the protection of the Grebo-Krahn National Park and advancing environmental awareness in local communities.

Understanding the importance of women’s involvement in conservation work, the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation encouraged communities to include women when selecting and training Community Ecoguards. In October 2018, 16 out of the 20 trainees, sent by communities, were women and, in just a few short months on the ground since then, the female Community Ecoguards at Grebo-Krahn National Park have made an exceptional impact on the conservation program through forest patrols and awareness raising. The recruitment, training and deployment of additional female Ecoguards have added to the deterrent of miners, hunters, farmers and others involved in illegal activities in the Park.

The Community Ecoguard training program topics included patrolling methodologies, species identification, and the use of equipment such as compasses and GPS. Their key roles include collecting data on wildlife and illegal human activities and sharing findings with the Forestry Development Authority who then uses that information for Park management. It’s not all work, however, as the community-based Ecoguards help with the community to community sensitization to stop illegal activities observed in the forest and to organize soccer games to bring community members together and disseminate conservation messages, and quiz competitions on specific conservation topics.

A group of men and women seated and learning.
Joaty Munnah (second from the left) and Ophelia Darbo (right) are being trained to conduct awareness-raising activities during the Community Ecoguard training in River Gbeh, River Gee County.


Two women and two men crossing a creek in the forest
Mathaline Garley is assisting her female colleague, Felecia Kyne, to cross a creek during a patrol in Grebo-Krahn National Park in July 2018.


The inclusion of women as Community Ecoguards has created the opportunity for them to earn an income that helps to care for their families while contributing to the protection of the National Park, which is a part of the community. “Being selected as an Ecoguard has given me a sense of independence. I’m now able to support my family from the income I earn and share co-responsibilities with my home mate”, Ecoguard Joaty Munnah from Tarsla, River Gee County said.

Many of the trainees previously earned money by selling bushmeat, an activity that depletes forest resources and biodiversity. Mathaline Garley from Peah, Grand Gedeh County, said, “I’m excited to be part of the Community Ecoguard team, especially because it has added value to my personal life in a way that I’m no longer someone who sells bushmeat but an environmental educator.” This program allows Mathaline to contribute to her family’s income without engaging in activities that will deplete different wildlife species in the forest.

Other female trainees are married to hunters and have already started encouraging their husbands/partners to stop hunting. The program is a prime example of the importance of realizing human potential through gender inclusion, in the Grebo-Krahn National Park and beyond.

Three women and three men in the forest, with one woman writing information in a notepad.
Elizabeth Tumbai, an Agriculture Biologist from the Forestry Training Institute (FTI), with Mathaline Garley and their colleagues, recording a poacher trail in Grebo-Krahn National Park during a forest patrol in April 2018.

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