Protecting the Gola Forest
The RSPB has worked with its partner in Sierra Leone for 20-years to protect the country's most important forest for conservation – The Gola Forest. The Gola Forest Programme is an international partnership that aims to protect the beautiful Gola rainforests in perpetuity – forever. It is Sierra Leone’s most ambitious conservation programme ever.
The Gola Forest Programme first took seed in 1990, when the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (CSSL) and the Forestry Division of the Government of Sierra Leone decided that the Gola Forest needed greater conservation attention. This was further boosted following a wildlife survey in 1989, sponsored by BirdLife International, that showed that the forest was still a stronghold for threatened plants and animals such as the Rufous Fishing Owl and a total of 14 species of threatened birds. The RSPB then took interest and became an international partner and supporter of CSSL and the Forestry Division.
- The Gola Forest will become Sierra Leone's second National Park and her first Rainforest National Park encompassing over 75,000 hectares. The aim of the Gola Forest Programme is to protect the Gola Forest in perpetuity through effective management, sustained funding and ongoing benefits for local communities. The project website can be viewed here: www.golarainforest.org
Key dates so far
- 1930-50 The Gola Forest established as a Forest Reserve to cover 75,000 hectares
- 1970-80s 40% of the Gola Forest is commercially logged, much of it unsustainable and poorly managed
- 1990 - The RSPB joins forces with the Forestry Division and the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone to protect the Gola Forest
- 1990-1996 - The Gola Forest Programme carries out law enforcement and community education programmes around the Gola Forests
- 1993 - An interim management plan is developed for Gola
- 1996 - The Sierra Leone civil war engulfs the Gola Forest area and project abandoned. RSPB continues to support CSSL and the Forestry Division throughout the war
- 2002 - the civil war is over and Sierra Leone returns to peace following democratic elections
- 2004-6 - With funding from the Global Conservation Fund, the Darwin Initiative and the RSPB the project is resurrected and agreement signed by the partners to establish to Gola Forest as a National Park
- 2007-2012 - The Gola Forest Programme, receives further funding from the EU and other donors to support the dream to make Gola a National Park
- 2008 - Management Plan for the Gola National Park completed
Work planned or underwayAs we move towards Gola Forest National Park status, the programme is busy developing a National Park headquarters, of an international standard, over the next 2 years. The project partners are lobbying the Sierra Leone government and parliament to complete the process to establish Gola as a national park in the coming 6 months. Community development support, staff development, law enforcement and research programmes are continuing.
- A management plan for the Gola forest from 2007-12 was approved by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security in 2008, which spells out the route to achieving National Park status for Gola.
- The park directly employs over 100 Sierra Leonean staff and is investing heavily in capacity building and training of Staff.
- The project has delivered over 23 community development projects since 2004 totaling over £125,000. This has been utilised by communities to rebuild strictures damaged by the war (Schools, guest houses, clinics, water pipes) and to support livelihood development though agriculture and livestock projects.
- All of the Threatened Birds and Mammals recorded in Gola prior to the war have been rediscovered in the Forest.
- The project has made some exciting discoveries of the threatened animals through a network of digital camera traps throughout the forest. These cameras have snapped the Pygmy Hippo, Leopard, Bongo, rare forest antelopes and the White-breasted Guineafowl.
- As a national asset, the Gola Forest National Park is already beginning to attract a limited numbers of tourists to see its diverse wildlife and rainforest landscapes. This initial influx of tourists whilst small, is greatly encouraging and the partners believe that there is greater potential in the future if the appropriate infrastructure is developed.
- The President of Sierra Leone publicly declared his support to establish Gola as a National park as recently as October 2009.
- Together with BirdLife international and our Sierra Leone and Liberian partners we are embarking on a transboundary project between Sierra Leone and Liberia to establish a peace park between the two countries covering over 200,000 hectares.
Gola Partners in the Gola Forest
Sierra Leone & Liberia Presidents launch the Project
Who to contact
Senior International Funding Officer
Forestry Division, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security
The Forestry Division undertakes day-to-day environmental management and forestry functions in Sierra Leone, and is responsible for management of the country’s 48 forest reserves and one national park.
Conservation Society of Sierra Leone
CSSL, established in 1986, is Sierra Leone’s most prominent biodiversity conservation NGO. Its main aim is to promote the wise use and management of Sierra Leone’s natural resources through education, advocacy and support for research, management activities and sustainable development programmes. CSSL is the Sierra Leone partner of BirdLife International.
Conservation Society of Sierra Leone
Forestry Division, Government of Sierra Leone
News on Peace Park.
http://www.birdlife.org/news/2009/10/peace park west africa.htm1
Project Donors (current):
European Commission - Development
Wildlife Without Borders
Project Donors (recent):
Global Conservation Fund
FundingThe Gola forest Programme is funded by a range of donors, past and present. Current major donors are the European Union and the Fonds Français Pour l’Environnement Mondial who are funding the programme from 2007 to 2012. Recent past donors have been the UK Defra Darwin Initiative and the Global Conservation Fund at Conservation International who funded the Gola Programme from 2004 to 2007.