Country Profiles

Liberia - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

In spite of its small size, Liberia has an extensive and unique biodiversity, originating from its once completely forested lands. Liberia is situated in the fragmented bank of forest known as the Upper Guinean Ecosystem which is one of the two most significant forest blocks in Africa (the other being the Congolese Forest).

Liberia is considered one of the 14 centers of global plant endemism, holding up to 42% of the Upper Guinea Forest Ecosystem at the beginning of the twenty-first century (a recent estimate however puts the number between 37-39% due to the allocation of forest concession rights to various types of contract holders). This massif comprises about 10 million acres of evergreen forest in the southeast around the borders with the Ivory Coast and deciduous forests in the northwest bordering Sierra Leone and Guinea. Liberia possesses over 2,900 different vascular plants (including 225 tree species), 600 bird species, 150 mammal species, and 75 reptile species. The country has one of the largest protected area networks in the region covering about 1.4 million hectares of forestland which is estimated to be 30% of the land area of the country. However, Sapo National Park, Lake Piso and the East Nimba Strict Nature Reserve are currently the only exclusive conservation areas in Liberia which, together, total approximately 4.5% of Liberia’s total forest area and 2.2% of its landmass.

In the opinion of consultants who prepared the fifth national report, biodiversity management has advanced in Liberia, especially in terms of forest management. However, this is not the case regarding other thematic ecosystems (e.g. agriculture, mountains, marine and coastal, inland waters) where a lot remains to be done.

The agriculture, fisheries, and forestry sectors represented about 72% of the GDP in 2011; however, this is projected to decrease in the coming years as iron ore exports increase. Aquatic ecosystems are an important breeding ground for fish, a source of protein for nearly 70% of the population. It is estimated that nearly 700,000 households directly depend on the country’s forest resources and agricultural biodiversity for their livelihoods. Liberian agriculture comprises food and tree crops, fisheries, and livestock. Rice and cassava are the main staple food crops, while rubber, oil palm, and cocoa are the dominant export tree crops. In the forestry sector, more than 60 tree species are of economic value. Women are major players in the agricultural sector, producing over 60% of agricultural products and constituting the majority of smallholder producers and the agricultural labor force.

Rubber production has been supported by high international prices over the last year and log production increased considerably in 2011 due to new companies engaging in logging operations. Rubber, timber, oil palm, and food production will continue to support growth in the medium term. Liberia also possesses significant hydraulic resources, conducive for the development of hydro-electricity, which to date remains largely unexploited. The potential of eco-tourism is another area which remains unassessed. Apart from iron ore, diamonds and gold are other valuable resources which have claimed the interest of the mining industry.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The main threats to biodiversity comprise illegal and quasi-illegal logging, shifting cultivation, mining, expansion of agro-industrial crop production and alien invasive species. Coastal ecosystems are threatened by the overexploitation of demersal fish species and other species (e.g. sea turtles), beach sand mining, beach erosion and mangrove loss. Less is known about the threats to and values of freshwater ecosystems however overfishing is regarded as a potential threat to inland fisheries. Water hyacinth occurs in several waterways however no data exists on its extent and/or its impact on the ecosystem.

Other pressures are linked to: lack of alternative financing; lack of capacity; weak enforcement of existing laws, with policies and legislation being far removed from the realities they are trying to influence; a low level of community awareness of policies and legislation; and the absence of a law enforcement division. Also, there is a lack of an holistic approach to environment/natural resource management, as well as barriers to alternative livelihoods and insecure land and resource tenure. Furthermore, a strategy is required to address the compromises between environment and economic development and land use planning. If the latter is neglected, massive direct foreign investment in various sectors of natural resources, including forestry, monoculture in agriculture, mining and river sand dredging, oil exploration, oil palm, among others, will continue to take precedence over the environment, thereby contributing to biodiversity loss.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Liberia’s NBSAP, completed in 2003, contained six goals to: take appropriate measures to protect critical ecosystems against harmful effects or destructive practices; create biodiversity awareness among sectors of society; commit Liberians to the sustainable use of biodiversity; promote rational use of biodiversity; promote access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their use; and contribute to the fulfillment of the MDGs in biodiversity conservation. A review of NBSAP implementation has revealed a lack of emphasis on mainstreaming, including a lack of understanding on how to effectively mainstream biodiversity in development processes. Another weakness was the lack of a financial mechanism or a Resource Mobilization Plan to support the implementation of actions.

Liberia is currently in the process of developing a revised NBSAP to 2020, including national targets and indicators, with consideration being given to the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Targets. The mission of the new NBSAP is to promote biodiversity mainstreaming in sectoral, cross-sectoral planning, and national accounting systems, through development policies, plans and programmes.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The goal of the Gbedin Swamp Rice project, begun in the mid-1960s, was to provide local farmers with new alternatives for growing rice to increase yield, as well as to discourage shifting cultivation. The site is still being used today for rice cultivation by the local communities.

The Government of Liberia has established a food security monitoring system to observe food security and nutrition indicators and provide early warning of potential emergency. The Ministry of Agriculture has also developed a food security and monitoring strategy and programme. It has also established a national food security task force to implement the food security programme and monitor food security and nutrition. The implementation of the strategy and programme nationwide remains to be done.

The Environmental Protection Agency has recently established a Gender Desk in the Division of Multilateral Environmental Agreements which works towards mainstreaming gender considerations into sectoral and cross-sectoral planning. Also, a Final Draft Strategy for Mainstreaming Gender Issues into Agriculture in Liberia was prepared in April 2012.

In 2011, the Ministry of Agriculture reviewed and implemented incentive measures for private sector investment consistent with the investment code and tax and revenue laws. Further, in 2013, the Ministry of Agriculture developed a private sector implementation strategy and programme in the agriculture sector. Implementation is the next challenge anticipated to commence in the near future.

As a result of the Forest Reformed Law (2006), community forestry (forests set aside for the exclusive socioeconomic benefit of the local communities) is being taken more seriously today. To date, the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) has demarcated 7 community forests and developed policy, regulations and guidelines for their management. The FDA Strategic Plan includes the establishment of 10 additional community forests by 2018.

The national regulatory agency for farmer cooperatives (Cooperative Development Agency) has been revitalized to carry out its mandate. The Ministry of Agriculture has trained and deployed agriculture extension agents in 15 counties to advise farmers on modern methods of farming. The Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI) has commenced distribution of improved seeds and other planting materials to increase food production and ensure food security.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The Government of Liberia has embarked on a medium-term economic growth and development strategy entitled “The Agenda for Transformation” to guide development activities over the next five years (2012–2017). It provides the roadmap for Liberia’s transformation from post-conflict recovery toward a long-term vision of becoming an inclusive middle-income country by 2030.

Regarding climate change and carbon financing, the Government of Liberia through the Forestry Development Authority received US$2,000,000 in funding in 2010 from the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) to assist in the development of Liberia’s Readiness Preparation Proposal, the establishment of an international mechanism to compensate countries for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+). Liberia received a further US$3.6m grant from the FCPF to implement the Readiness Preparation Activities. The grant agreement was signed on 29 June 2012 and will conclude on 30 May 2015.

The Forest Reformed Law (2006) requires a national forest management strategy as a pre-requisite for forestland use in the country. The Forestry Development Authority (FDA) conducted a forest management suitability study from 2005 to 2006 to identify the most suitable area for the three categories of forestry which the new law mandates forest practices in the country should be based on (commercial, conservation and community forestry). The study identified a total of 5,705,559 hectares which is equal to 59% of the total land mass of the country.

The Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy is completing the revision of its legislation, policy, regulations and guidelines to improve management and enforcement of environmental and social impact assessment concerns in the mining sector.

Liberia intends to ratify the Nagoya Protocol by 2014 and has developed a draft ABS Law.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The National Report is used as a monitoring and evaluation component of the national blueprint for the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity at national level.