The Gola Rainforest: Sierra Leone's first rainforest national park
The RSPB has the opportunity to work in some of the most amazing natural places. The plight of threatened species has been the primary focus of many projects including an international partnership for the conservation of the Gola Rainforest in Sierra Leone.
The Gola REDD+ projectThe project vision is to "act as a catalyst for peace, prosperity and national pride in Sierra Leone, ensuring the globally important habitats, biodiversity and environmental services of the GRNP and wider Gola landscape are conserved and that neighbouring communities are active environmental stewards of the natural resource base that underpins and enhances their livelihoods".
To facilitate the achievement of the project's vision and ensure that the project achieves net positive benefits for climate, communities and biodiversity, project activities will focus on three goals:
- Conservation strategy and effective management for the GRNP: To strengthen the conservation strategy and effective management of the GRNP and enable the project to be a stimulus for building national policies and regulations as well as informing relevant regional and international platforms of conservation best practice.
- Sustainable natural resource management: To enable local people to become environmental stewards of the natural resource base that underpins their livelihoods through education, capacity building, land use planning and activities that enhance the socio-economic benefits derived from the sustainable use of the project zone's forests and agricultural land.
- Research and monitoring: To develop and maintain a comprehensive social and biodiversity database and monitoring system to ensure the availability of accurate, relevant and timely information to inform and enhance project management and the effective delivery of outcomes, using adaptive management processes.
The activities surrounding sustainable resource management have been developed in coordination with the villages immediately surrounding the park (in an area known as the leakage belt) and are designed to improve livelihoods whilst addressing and reducing the local drivers of deforestation.
Engaging local communities in both management actions and livelihood activities is central to the project as it ensures the permanence of the project. Activities include developing sustainable farming practices which increase the production of rice, the staple food crop in the region, but also rehabilitating and improving production, harvesting, post-production techniques and marketing of plantation crops such as cacao, savings and internal lending communities to support alternative livelihood strategies.
The project is also taking on the development of land use management plans for community and co-management areas. An exciting aspect of the research and monitoring component of the project will be the development of a research station within the GRNP. The research station will provide a centre for national and international research on tropical rainforest ecosystems and integrated conservation and development approaches to protected area management and further the recognition of the National Park's high conservation values.
The Gola REDD+ project has a 30-year lifecycle and will be managed by a company, which will seek registration as a charitable company, formed by the three original partners (the Government of Sierra Leone, the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone and the RSPB). The overall management of the project is overseen by the three partners and the representative of the Paramount Chiefs of the seven Gola Chiefdoms, while the project is implemented by a team of more than 130 staff based in country.
RSPB policy on carbon offsetting for tropical forest projects
The RSPB will:
- 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;
- 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;
- Use all income from the sale of credits on the carbon markets to directly fund our biodiversity conservation work in tropical forests;
- Use our projects as ‘proof of concept’ models for others to learn from and replicate;
- Advocate an effective REDD mechanism that explicitly addresses forest and biodiversity conservation through the compliance market;
- Advocate the development of a credible voluntary carbon market based on sound science with proven climatic benefits;
- Advocate and work to improve the highest possible quality assurance standards within the voluntary carbon market;
- Ensure local indigenous communities directly benefit in a fair and equitable manner from any carbon revenues;
- 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 which can secure the rights of local people, as they relate to conservation and the ecologically sustainable use of natural resources.
Rights and tenure
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
- Gola Rainforest National Park team
- Forest Edge Communities
- The 7 Gola Chiefdoms
- Rainforest Alliance
- Njala University
- Cambridge University, Land Economy
- Wageningen University, Development Economics