Three Steps Forward for Transboundary Collaboration between Guinea and Liberia

Three Steps Forward for Transboundary Collaboration between Guinea and Liberia
March 19, 2019 4:01 pm News

Representatives of two of West Africa’s most important forest nations, Guinea and Liberia, have made strong commitments to continue conserving the Upper Guinean forest ecosystem, and to manage these globally unique forests for the wellbeing of people on both sides of the border.

Converging at the Voinjama, Liberia City Hall on February 5-6, 2019, stakeholders of the Ziama-Wonegizi-Wologizi (ZWW) Transboundary Forest Landscape, comprising national and local officials, community representatives and experts from non-governmental organizations, worked tirelessly to prepare and endorse three critical transboundary forest governance and management instruments:

  1. A high-level Bilateral Agreement between the governments of Liberia and Guinea;
  2. A Memorandum of Understanding on technical collaboration between the Conservation Department of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) of Liberia and theN’Zérékoré Forestry Center (CFZ) of Guinea; and
  3. Terms of Reference for Members of the Bilateral Steering Committee.
Working Group
Working Group


The Ziama-Wonegizi-Wologizi (ZWW) Transboundary Forest Landscape spans over 114,800 hectares and is one of the largest remaining, intact blocks of West Africa’s unique and globally significant Upper Guinean Forest. It is home to more than 25% of Africa’s mammals, including flagship species such as the critically endangered western chimpanzee, the endangered pygmy hippopotamus, which is endemic to the forests of Liberia, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone, and the vulnerable African forest elephant.

However, the ZWW forest landscape faces several complex threats including  degradation, habitat loss and fragmentation due to a series of causes and drivers that come together to exacerbate the problems and increase the threats. These include agricultural expansion using slash and burn techniques and illegal activities related to mining, hunting and logging. A changing climate  and insufficient enforcement of existing and supportive policies for natural resource management further exacerbate these challenges.

Since 2018, the conservation, sustainable management and connectivity of these forests, including strategies to improve the livelihoods of nearby communities, have been supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change (WA BiCC) Program. This effort is being implemented by Fauna and Flora International (FFI), a grantee of WA BiCC and longstanding actor in the region. However, the success of this initiative is dependent on close collaboration with national and regional government agencies, mainly the FDA in Liberia and CFZ in Guinea, as well as civil society NGOs and community partners.

In October 2018, the ZWW Transboundary Forest Landscape activity was officially launched. Soon after, stakeholders enthusiastically begin drafting the three foundational documents informed by extensive consultation with their wider constituencies. The Voinjama meeting was the culmination of this extensive four-month consultative process to draft and validate the policy documents.

Harrison Karnwea, FDA Board Chairman noted; “As a former Managing Director of FDA, I’m happy to see that what we started in the past is taking shape, and community members on both sides of the border are working with us. We need to continue encouraging them because it’s in their best interest that these areas are conserved.” On her part, Madam Watta Kamara, CFZ Director General noted; “We are here today because it is our responsibility as the custodians of this forest between Guinea and Liberia to consolidate our efforts to preserve our natural resources for our future generations.”

Several factors are contributing to the successful kick-off of this initiative:

  • The governments, communities, civil society actors, technical partners and other stakeholders are sincerely engaged and committed to success, with clear definition  of deliverables and priorities
  • An active facilitation role played by the Mano River Union in promoting a united approach to natural resource management linked to economic and social empowerment
  • Deliberate use of lessons learned from bilateral agreements in other transboundary forest landscapes, such as Gola, Tai-Grebo-Krahn-Sapo and Mount Nimba, as modus operandi for planning and stakeholder engagement.

The First Transboundary meeting of the ZWW Transboundary Forest Landscape resulted in a significant milestone: the Guinea and Liberia government representatives immediately submitted the jointly agreed documents to their respective Ministries of Foreign Affairs for formalization and adoption.

In his closing remarks, Mr. Victor Mombu representing USAID West Africa, emphasized that “Besides the funding we are providing, this initiative is still being led by the two governments and we need to involve the private sector as well.”

Mr. Victor Mombu representing USAID West Africa giving closing remarks
Mr. Victor Mombu of USAID West Africa giving closing remarks

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