Community Empowerment to Protect Rainforests in Liberia

Project Cost: $738,613

Funding Raised: $738,613

$2.32 per acre (1 acre = 43,560 sq ft)
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Thanks to generous support from our donors, we have successfully reached our fundraising goal for this project.

Although the Upper Guinea Forest Hotspot is widely recognized as a top conservation priority, it is under increasing pressure from unsustainable resource use. Affected by low-income levels and scare resources, communities living in the region are among the most vulnerable in the country. Due to their remote location, they have restricted access to education, health and agricultural support and heavily rely on natural resources. The Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia (SCNL) has been working with the Tonglay and Normon clans to protect this imperiled ecosystem through the creation of Community Forests. Communities will be empowered to conserve their land, seek alternative livelihoods and expand Liberia’s protected area network by linking Gola Forest National Park with the Foya proposed protected area. Rainforest Trust and local partner SCNL seek $738,614 to engage four local clans in the establishment of five Community Forests across 318,520 acres. This increase in protected lands will maximize connectivity between existing protected areas while also creating a buffer around Gola Forest National Park.

Photo: The Vulnerable White-necked Rockfowl. Photo by Rainforest Trust.

Fast Facts


318,520 acres

Key Species:
Chimpanzee (EN), Pygmy Hippopotamus (EN), Jentink’s Duiker (EN), Gola Malimbe (EN), Upper Guinea Red Colobus (EN), Tai Toad (EN), Ringed River Frog (EN)

Upper Guinea Forest

Deforestation, bushmeat hunting


Local Partner:
Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia

Financial Need:

Price per Acre:

Metric Tons Carbon Storage:


Recognized by conservationists around the world as a top priority for conservation, the project site forms part of the largest remnant of the Upper Guinea Forest Biodiversity Hotspot and Ecoregion.

Flagship species include the Endangered Chimpanzee and Pygmy Hippopotamus, as well as the Endangered Upper Guinea Red Colobus. Gola Forest National Park and surrounding buffer zones support over 300 bird species including the endemic and Endangered Gola Malimbe. The region is also home to at least 31 fish species, 600 butterfly species and 43 amphibian species. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists two of the amphibians, the Tai Toad and the Ringed River Frog, as Endangered. Despite the biological value of the ecosystem, at least 70% of the Upper Guinea Forest has already disappeared, and the rest is highly fragmented. Liberia holds the most significant remaining portion of the ecosystem at 42%.  

Photo: An Endangered Pygmy Hippopotamus calf. Photo by Michelle Bender.


Deforestation and bushmeat hunting are persistent threats to the proposed protected areas as a result of the high demand for natural resources.

A lack of land use planning has created an expanding mosaic of subsistence and commercial agricultural operations that encroach upon forest habitat. Mining, logging, cocoa and palm oil commercial enterprises are particularly prevalent to the South and East of Gola Forest National Park. Bushmeat is a vital source of protein for rural communities in Liberia and threatened species such as pangolins, colobus monkeys, chimpanzees and elephants are often hunted. Both national and international demand drive the commercial hunting push, which supplies bushmeat to the markets of Monrovia. The Forestry Development Authority lacks law enforcement capacity, so commercial and subsistence hunting are mostly unregulated.  

Photo: Deforested trees. Photo by James P. Lewis/Rainforest Trust.


Community involvement is critical to the success of the new protected areas because the communities will ultimately manage these areas.

The area was highly disturbed during the civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, leaving many villages were abandoned. Currently, the population is comprised of a wide range of ethnicities with Gola representing the majority. Local communities involved in the project are represented by the Tonglay, Normon, Gola Konnehand Sokpo clans. Primary sources of income in these communities include artisanal diamond mining and commercial bushmeat hunting, which are illegal. The area attracts miners and bushmeat hunters from across Liberia as well as neighboring countries. The Normon, Toglay and Gola Konneh clans have worked with the partner previously. The Sokpo clan specifically requested assistance with the establishment of Community Forests after noticing the successes of nearby clans.  

Photo: Local community members. Photo by James P. Lewis/Rainforest Trust.


To conserve forests and promote sustainable livelihoods, Rainforest Trust and SCNL seek $738,614 to create five new Community Forests covering 318,520 acres.

One Community Forest will be developed with each of the Tonglay, Normon, and Gola Konneh clans while two Community Forests will be developed in collaboration with the Sopko clan. Land-use plans will be developed to implement zoning schemes, ensuring the protection of areas of high conservation value. SCNL is currently in the process of creating Community Forests in collaboration with two clans, successful methods from this effort will be replicated to expand this model. (Photo: Community members. Photo by James P. Lewis/Rainforest Trust.)