Reducing Deforestation, Forest Degradation, And Biodiversity Loss

healthy ecosytem of forest with a flowing river

Overview – The Upper Guinean Forests of West Africa is a global biodiversity hotspot—a biogeographic region with significant amount of biodiversity that is threatened with destruction. The forests are home to an exceptional concentration of vulnerable, threatened, or endangered species as defined by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) and the Red List of Threatened Species compiled by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). These species include forest elephants, pygmy hippopotamuses, and rosewood, among many others. The Upper Guinean Forest ecosystem, which once extended across much of the West African region, is now found in fragments and remnants across part of Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, southern Ghana, and southwestern Togo.

Ninety percent of the Upper Guinean Forest and several of the ecosystem services and functions they provide, such as catchments for sustainable water supplies, have already been lost to human activities including mining, logging, agriculture, and conversion to oil palm and other plantations at various scales. These drivers are enabled by weak or ineffective governance and law enforcement, inadequate conservation and management support, and a general lack of awareness of the overall values of these areas. Portions of the landscape are at risk of losing their status as internationally recognized Man and the Biosphere Reserves as defined by the United Nations Educational and Scientific Organization (UNESCO).








West Africa maps showing the forest zones then and now (1975 and 2013)  - Sources: CILSS (2016)- USGS

In spite of these challenges, there is increasing recognition of the need to conserve and sustainably manage the remaining 10% of the landscape, an area accounting for about 73 million ha. WA BiCC’s Component on Reducing Deforestation, Forest Degradation and Biodiversity Loss focuses on contributing to this outcome by working with and through core regional partners, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Mano River Union (MRU).


Evidence shows clearly that sustainable forest landscape management cannot be successful without addressing 1) illegal and/or unsustainable activities, and 2) the need to reconcile conservation with improved livelihoods and human wellbeing in neighboring communities. In addition, it is increasingly imperative to integrate emerging challenges related climate change into forest management work.

Landscapes, ecosystems, species, and people all interact with one another on different levels. To this end, the work undertaken in under Component 3 is inextricably linked to programmatic efforts to combat wildlife trafficking and increase coastal resilience to climate change (especially regarding mangrove forest ecosystems and the critical role they play in buffering storm surges and floods). Integrated and collaborative approaches related to piloting or scaling up effective practices in mangrove and inland forests landscapes include:

  • Innovative community-adapted and integrated land use planning,
  • Testing novel approaches that reduce forest and biodiversity loss and carbon emissions, and
  • Improving the management, including co-management pilots, of transboundary forest landscapes

This is done by supporting the development or enhancement of management protocols, improving coordination across sectors and levels of governance, and promoting forest landscape restoration.

Component 3’s core activities are landscape-based and achieved through grants provided to local and/or international organizations that have a proven track record in the thematic and geographic areas where WA BiCC is focusing its resources. The grants mechanism allows partner organizations to scale up effective interventions or pilot additional approaches across the remaining Upper Guinean Forests. Interventions focus on “learning landscapes” that have been selected as priorities by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) or the Mano River Union and their Member States. The learning landscapes where effective practices are being scaled up or tested to inform more effective local, national, and regional policies are the Ziama-Wonegizi-Wologizi (ZWW) Transboundary Forest Landscape between Liberia and Guinea, the Gola Transboundary Forest Landscape between Sierra Leone and Liberia, and Taï-Grebo-Krahn-Sapo Forest Landscape located in Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire

Geographical Focus of Component 3


Activities/Progress so far

To identify issues on the ground and assess how WA BiCC could add maximum value to ongoing, past or planned activities, a series of scoping missions took place in the landscapes at the start of the program. The reports of these scoping missions can be found here. The data, information, and learning generated by these baselines helped design specific interventions in our upper forest landscapes. The lessons learned, information, and best practices from these landscape interventions are expected to influence and inform policy, practices, and behaviors as well as create an enabling environment for conservation work across countries and in West Africa as a whole.

Establishment of Species Working Groups in West Africa

One gap identified in the region is the lack of a strong network of experts to share knowledge and information on threats to biodiversity. To address this, WA BiCC initiated the development of expert Species Working Groups in the four Mano River Union countries: Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Cote d’Ivoire. In Liberia, the group helped lead to the hosting of a successful regional workshop, co-funded by WA BiCC, that developed the Conservation Strategy and Action Plan for the conservation of chimpanzees in West Africa.

Member of the Species Working Group in Cote d'Ivoire
Member of the Species Working Group in Cote d’Ivoire
Promoting Forest Landscape Restoration Activities in Ghana

ECOWAS Member States are being supported to fulfill their commitments to the Bonn Challenge, a global effort to restore 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land by 2020. Paramount to countries’ abilities to meet their targets is the availability of information and resources. WA BiCC convened a regional meeting in Morocco during the UNFCCC COP 22 to discuss how to mobilize resources and increase the availability of data and information. The Program introduced the Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology for mapping forest landscape restoration opportunities to stakeholders in Ghana.

Participants viewing the maps during the FLR workshop in Accra
Participants viewing the maps during the FLR workshop in Accra
Strengthening REDD+ Strategy Development and Implementation in Guinea

The Program supported Guinea’s first major initiative towards the development of a National Strategy for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). WA BiCC supported Guinea in establishing a REDD+ Secretariat and develop a REDD+ Strategy and Roadmap, which was validated at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) Conference of Parties (COP) 23 in Bonn, Germany. This investment also supported Guinea’s contributions towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and forms an integral part of the national framework of priorities. Not operating in isolation, the strategy employs a holistic approach to implementation, targeting forest landscape restoration and linking forest management to livelihood improvement. The roadmap is guiding Guinea toward resource mobilization and the implementation of conservation initiatives. WA BiCC also organized two learning workshops in Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire to share information and build a network of REDD+ specialists in the region. A link to the Guinea REDD+ Roadmap can be found here.

Participants during the REDD+ Consultations in Guinea
Participants during the REDD+ Consultations in Guinea


Promoting Community Landscape Management in the Gola Transboundary Forest

A focus of interventions in the Gola Transboundary Landscape is the promotion of community landscape management through activities planned and managed by grantee partners the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Society for the Conservation of Nature-Liberia (SCNL), and the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (CSSL). These interventions will run from September 2017 through January 2020. Grantees are working with national governments and local community leaders to balance forest conservation with improved livelihoods. To achieve this, several community forest sites have been selected for sustainable management planning and the capacities of community members are being enhanced on areas such as enhanced agricultural practices, community forestry management and alternative livelihood activities such as beekeeping. The interventions will generate knowledge and learning on best practices to be shared between local, national, and regional stakeholders to inform policies and practices beyond Gola. A full description of this intervention can be found here.

Forest Edge Communities in Gola
Forest Edge Communities in Gola


Strengthening Collaborative Management of the Ziama-Wonegizi-Wologizi (ZWW) Transboundary Forest Landscape

FFI received a second grant for activities in the ZWW and is working in Guinea and Liberia to protect and manage over 250,000 ha of forest across the landscape. Efforts promote the free and safe movement of wildlife, including elephants, by protecting valuable corridors. Activities center around improving conservation and fostering, through capacity building efforts, more effective policy and institutional environments, promoting sustainable livelihoods and encouraging information sharing. A full description of this intervention can be found here.

Rangers visiting the Ziama-Wonegizi-Wologizi forest
Rangers visiting the Ziama-Wonegizi-Wologizi forest


Strengthening Multi-Stakeholder Management of the Taï-Grebo-Krahn-Sapo (TGKS) Transboundary Forest Landscape

The Wild Chimpanzee Foundation (WCF) grant in the TGKS, running from September 2017 to January 2020, focuses on promoting forest conservation, securing connectivity for wildlife movement, providing livelihood alternatives to forest-edge communities, and encouraging the sharing of information and learning from best practices. It specifically aims to protect 600,000 ha of forest and support the sustainable and zero-deforestation production of cocoa and other commercial crops in the region. The capacity of local stakeholders to monitor biodiversity and combat wildlife crime is being enhanced as a means of achieving these targets. Ten livelihood projects have been selected by communities and are being supported based on their commitment to support to the protections of Tai, Cavally, and Grebo-Krahn forests. A full description of this intervention can be found here.

Rangers visiting the Tai forest
Rangers visiting the Tai forest
Strengthening Multi-Stakeholder Management of the Taï-Grebo-Krahn-Sapo (TGKS) Transboundary Forest Landscape with Focus on Sapo National Park

A 26-month grant was issued to Flora and Fauna International (FFI) in January 2018 to enhance the capacity of the Forest Department Authority to improve community engagement in the management of forest resources. The intervention aims to protect an estimated 200,000 ha forest within the Sapo National Park in Liberia, to help mitigate climate change and boost agricultural production in the southeast region of the country. The grant will also protect and monitor the park’s rich biodiversity, introduce or enhance community-based forestry for the sustainable use of resources by forest edge-communities, and support livelihood and good governance initiatives. A full description of this intervention can be found here.

Community engagement and interactions in Sapo National Park
Community engagement and interactions in Sapo National Park