FOREST CONSERVATION & PROTECTION AWARENESS
By: Mahawa Komala and Massa Beyan
Date: March 13, 2022
Sustainable management of forest resources by indigenous people is a vital aspect of forest conservation and protection. Indigenous communities play a crucial role in maintaining and protecting forests through sustainable farming, such as permaculture. In Liberia, indigenous people are depended heavily on forests for food, security, shelter, and livelihood. The rapid disappearance of forests in forested communities has resulted in soil erosion, scarcity of fertile soil and water-leading to low agricultural yield, and an increase in temperature because of an increase in greenhouse gas emission. Some unrecognize forest benefits includes reduction in carbon dioxide emitted from human activities, increase soil fertility, maintenance of streams and rivers, provide habitats for other organisms that play a crucial role in the food web.
However, there is an alarming rate of deforestation in Lawalazu, Bakuma, and Kozimai due to primitive farming (shifting cultivation), logging, and charcoal production-which is one of the sources of income generation nowadays for many indigenous people. Nevertheless, conserving and maintaining the remaining forests in these communities is crucial and will promote sustainability, counter the imbalance that already exists, and make the environment habitable once again for all. everyday gandhis believe that indigenous participation in forest conservation and protection is the best way forward as they are directly involved in the destruction.
To achieve our environmental protection and management goals, everyday gandhis environmental team conducted a three-day awareness on community forest conservation and protection in Lawalazu, Bakuma, and Kozimai. The goal of the awareness was to assess the knowledge level of the residents on the importance of forests, the negative impacts of their activities on the forests. Thirty-five participants from each town participated in the awareness making up a total of 105, gender balance was prioritized. Most of the participants are active upland farmers with few lowland farmers.
From our observation, knowledge on forest conservation and protection among participants is low, many of them do not know the vital role forests play in saving life on Earth. This observation is backed by constant violation of the rules and regulations put together by them to protect their forests. Therefore, we recommended local forest governance through the leadership of their towns, which include elders, town chiefs, chairladies, and the youth leaders, as well as in close collaboration with the government and everyday gandhis.
For better evaluation of their knowledge and interest, participants were divided into small groups randomly for group discussion on the following questions below:
The forest you now see in your town, is it the same forest you saw as you growing up?
If no, what do you think is the cause of the forest disappearing?
Have you done anything to stop or slow down the forest disappearance?
If yes, what have you done to stop or slow down the forest from vanishing?
Are some of your rivers or streams still the same today compared to years back?
What do you think is the cause of the rivers and streams drying out?
What have you done to prevent the rivers and streams from drying out?
Are the dry (October to March) and rainy (April to September) seasons which each last for six months still the same?
If no, is there more sunshine than rainfall or the other way around?
Has there been a shift in the months?
Do you produce more food from your garden or farm compared to years back?
Do you see animals around compared to years back?
Do the women or men catch more fish when they go fishing compared to years back?
After individual group discussion, responses from each group were discussed together, pointing out causes, prevention methods, importance, and way forward. As we move from one point to another with the discussion, many of them began to realize that most of their activities poses threat to their own environment and they are now experiencing consequences that come with it. During their closing remarks, many of them asked for everyday gandhis intervention with such regular program, work with them to secure a part of their forests, as well as provide permaculture training which will enable them to swiftly move away from primitive farming to safe the remaining forest and allow some of the parts that have been destroyed to regenerate again.
Finally, deforestation and its impacts are gradually becoming visible in the eyes of the people of Lawalzu, Bakuma, and Kozimai. Through low agricultural yield-resulting scarcity of food, scarcity of water, increase temperature, heavy rainfall, and flood, loss of herbs and wildlife.