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Gola Forest Survey Report
A soci-economic baseline survey conducted by BirdLife International and the Society for the Conservation of Nature in Liberia (SCNL) staff under the European Commission funded “Across The River - A Trans-boundary Peace Park for Sierra Leone and Liberia project” (ARTP), together with the Forest Development Authority (FDA) of Liberia and a team of researchers from a consortium of Wageningen University (Netherlands) and the University of Cambridge (UK) has been released.
The Gola forest area is located in the Porpka District of Grand Cape mount and the Kongba District of Gbarpolu County. The survey has revealed that the forest is vast with few settlements that are either recent or temporary with connections to mining. Government presence is also weak with only traditional authorities in few of the villages while the landlord-stranger system is the main means to regulate activities of migrants to the forest (mainly miners), but that system is also weak due to the lack of roads, transportation and communications system while some chiefs are not correctly installed or properly elected and therefore lack authority. There is also a mixed presence of different tribes including Mandingo, Gio, and nationals from others countries such as Sierra Leone etc.
Of the two Counties surveyed in terms of logging, hunting and mining activities, Gbarpolu County seemingly has less logging but more hunting activities than Grand Cape Mount County.
In all 31 villages visited 10 in Grand Cape Mount and 21 in Gbarpolu, and 305 household questionnaires, and 27 village surveys proposed Gola National Park is perceived as a major potential imposition of government authority in the area, and is feared by some land-owners because it is not understood especially the issue of community land rights. The long process of the establishment of the Gola National Park and the consequential delimitation and demarcation of the park boundary has made matters worse due to uncertainty as to where the line will be drawn.
The survey has also established that while some community dwellers are involved in mining, hunting, and logging activities, most people are also involved in rice, cassava and pepper farming. Rice and cassava are grown for consumption, while crops grown are mainly for the market in Monrovia. All the communities depend on products from the forest, but have few ideas about the sustainable use of these natural resources. Others communities are interested in cash crops like cocoa, coffee, oil palm, etc.
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