Conservation International’s Experience Addressing People-Park Conflict in Liberia (Spring 2015)

March 12, 2015
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by Conservation International

Strengthening peace in Liberia is an ongoing process. Just as natural resources played a significant role in fuelling the country’s two bloody civil wars, addressing new questions about the management of Liberia’s land and natural resources is critical for securing a lasting peace.

Many Liberians depend directly on nature for their survival, and the urgency of their needs poses a challenge for sustainable management. Forest covers nearly 45% of the country, and is a vital source of food, medicine, construction material and energy for hundreds of thousands of households. This value is precisely why it’s so important to protect these forests, but too often the creation of protected areas can seem to pit conservation goals directly against the pressing needs of local people.

This was the case around the East Nimba Nature Reserve (ENNR) in northern Liberia, documented in a recent case study published by Conservation International’s Policy Center for Environment and Peace. Conflict emerged between ENNR management authorities who felt that the reserve should be protected with strict limits on community access, and community forest users who were adamant that their people were entitled to the land and resources in the reserve.

Working with partners, Conservation International Liberia addressed this conflict using a strategy based on the conservation agreement model, which offers resource users a negotiated benefit package in exchange for conservation activities undertaken by communities. Neighboring communities accepted a five-year trial period in which they will work with management authorities to manage the ENNR as a strictly protected area. Benefit packages to offset foregone access to resources in the reserve were negotiated with each community, and included such things as technical support to improve rice production and skills training for community health workers.

The Nimba experience highlights the importance of bringing together government, civil society and local communities to reach consensus on resource use and ownership and alleviate conflict. This case study is the first in a series of five documenting how Conservation International is applying a peacebuilding approach to managing natural resources and conserving biodiversity in some of the most endangered places on Earth.

To learn more about how conversation agreements have helped reduce conflict,  check out Conservation International’s first blog in the  “Environmental Peacebuilding” series,  focused on a Liberia case study. For more information, contact: Janet Edmond, Senior Director for Peace and Development Partnerships at Conservation International by e-mail at jedmond@conservation.org.