What we do
The Gola Forests
The Gola Rainforest is the largest remnants of Upper Guinean Tropical Rainforest left in Sierra Leone. It covers an area of nearly 70,000 hectares where over 330 bird species have been recorded, 14 of which face global risk of extinction, including the endangered rufous fishing-owl, Scotopella ussheri, and the Gola malimbe, Malimbus ballmanni. Of global conservation concern and no doubt the most charismatic bird species in the area is the white-necked picathartes, Picathartes gymnocephalus.
A variety of other flagship species are also found in Gola including the elusive pygmy hippo, Choeropsis liberiensis, threatened with extinction and only present in this part of Africa, an estimated population of 300 chimpanzees and 49 species of larger mammals. These species are only a few of those that drove the international recognition of this area as a global biodiversity hotspot, requiring utmost effort and attention from the conservation community.
The RSPB's involvement
The RSPB first became involved in work in Gola over 20-years ago with a rapid biodiversity survey. The survey indicated the importance and the unique value of this site but also highlighted the threats it faced.
Opportunities to protect the forest were discussed and these led to an appeal to the RSPB members for their support and later a partnership agreement between the Forestry Division of the Government of Sierra Leone, The Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (National BirdLife Partner) and the RSPB to manage the site for conservation (previously the forest was managed as a production forest reserve, with the primary objective being the extraction of timber).
Early conservation work was funded by the Global Conservation Fund[e1] , later during the scaling up of the work, funding was secured from the European Union and the FFEM[e2]. However, donor funding is not a viable option for long-term large scale conservation initiatives and so the partners investigated other financing mechanisms.
From a feasibility study carried out in 2008, it was concluded that the development of a ‘Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Degradation’ (REDD) was a viable source of funds. The aim of a REDD+ project is to help reduce the impacts of global climate change by protecting the Gola Forests and preventing the release of carbon stored in the forest. A REDD+ project should not only create climatic benefits but also so called ‘co-benefits’ for biodiversity and for local people.
In 2011, a major milestone was achieved when the Government declared the Gola Forest a National Park, in preparation for the establishment of a REDD+ project. The Gola Rainforest National Park (GRNP) was the second National Park to be created in Sierra Leone and it will be the first area of forest to develop a REDD+ project in Sierra Leone and indeed in West Africa.
The Gola REDD+ project therefore represents and exciting and innovative new phase for conservation work in Gola, as well as acting as a pilot within the RSPB’s policy on forest carbon (see Annex).
The Gola REDD+ project has adopted and followed the principles of Free, Prior and Informed consent (FPIC) in developing the project. A stakeholder engagement plan was developed and implemented which began in January 2012 with a series of consultative meetings.
Consultations and meetings were conducted in accordance with best practice for social impact assessment, in the local language and using appropriate methodologies and tools. Community engagement, consultation and participation is a key part of the project and regular road shows, radio programs, workshops, school events as well as traditional meetings and forums all form on-going means of communicating and engaging with a full range of local stakeholders from Paramount Chiefs to school children and farmers throughout the area.
The Forestry Division of the Government of Sierra Leone is the management authority for all Forest Reserves and National Parks in Sierra Leone, including the GRNP. Through carbon agreements with traditional landowners the carbon rights also lie with the Government of Sierra Leone.
In order to implement the REDD+ project the partners have developed a series of agreements with the Government and local communities to secure carbon and management rights and provide compensation in local stakeholders through a Benefit Sharing Agreement.
The largest ever Ebola outbreak is affecting several countries in West Africa, including Sierra Leone and Liberia where the RSPB has been working for many years with local BirdLife partners and Governments to conserve critical biodiversity and sustainably manage the greater Gola landscape.
The epidemic has already been responsible for over 1500 deaths and is still threatening more lives as well as the economies of these countries. The RSPB is doing its upmost to support and assist project staff as well as Gola’s local communities during these particularly difficult times, and stressing that staff and communities should take advice from the medical authorities, and highlighting how critical it is for all to abide to national and international efforts to contain this epidemic. It is with heartfelt friendship that the RSPB reaches out to all its Sierra Leonean and Liberian colleagues.
For more information, please contact Nicolas Tubbs
Tropical Forest Conservation Manager
Gola Partners in the Gola Forest
Sierra Leone & Liberia Presidents launch the Project
Nicolas TubbsTropical Forest Conservation ManagerE-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Gola Rainforest National Park Management
Forestry Division, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security
Conservation Society of Sierra Leone
Paramount Chiefs through their elected Representative
2. Implementation Partners
Gola Rainforest National Park team
Forest Edge Communities
The 7 Gola Chiefdoms
Cambridge University, Land Economy
Wageningen University, Development Economics
RSPB policy on carbon offsetting for tropical forest projects
The RSPB will:
1. Continue to advocate that governments, companies and individuals must concentrate on reducing their own carbon emissions, and we will not recommend or endorse carbon offsetting in the UK;
2. Secure long-term financing for our biodiversity conservation work in tropical forests through the generation and sale of carbon credits on the voluntary carbon market, subject to strict criteria on purchasers; with the intention of eventually selling credits only on the compliance market once this becomes operational;
3. Use all income from the sale of credits on the carbon markets to directly fund our biodiversity conservation work in tropical forests;
4. Use our projects as ‘proof of concept’ models for others to learn from and replicate;
5. Advocate an effective REDD mechanism that explicitly addresses forest and biodiversity conservation through the compliance market;
6. Advocate the development of a credible voluntary carbon market based on sound science with proven climatic benefits;
7. Advocate, and work to improve, the highest possible quality assurance standards within the voluntary carbon market;
8. Ensure that local indigenous communities directly benefit in a fair and equitable manner from any carbon revenues;
9. Respect internationally proclaimed human rights as contained in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights; support and promote the realisation of human rights wherever appropriate within the scope of our forest conservation programme; strive to avoid harming the most vulnerable; and promote the improvement of governance systems that can secure the rights of local people, as they relate to conservation and the ecologically sustainable use of natural resources.