I want to use this time to thank Dr. Somah (he visited
my office recently in Monrovia) for his very interesting
speeches and articles on matters of national interest.
I have read two of his recent papers, but I am concerned
about the most recent one delivered at the so-called
All Liberia National Conference in Maryland, USA.
As professional forester, a biodiversity specialist
and instructor of forest management (University of Liberia),
I feel obliged to provide some information intended
to correct some of the wrongs of Dr. Somah's paper on
Agriculture/Environment. In my brief encounter with
the learned professor, I found him to have immense interest
in the Liberian environment, and someone willing to
contribute. Both of us agreed to exchange information
regularly regarding environmental sustainability.
1. We must be very careful about the introduction of
new innovations in a society. New innovations, especially
totally foreign, can be very expensive and resistant
by our people. This is in reference to Dr. Somah's recommendation
for water sport on Lake Piso. Regarding protection of
the Lake, please be informed that Lake Wetlands is one
of the proposed protected areas of Liberia, awaiting
approval from the Government of Liberia. Once gazzetted,
the area will be fully protected in the context of environmental
management. In the meantime, an international NGO (Fauna
and Flora International) is working with the Forestry
Development Authority to conduct socio-economic and
biological surveys of the area, to ascertain that it
possesses all prerequisite characteristics for being
a protected area.
2. The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism
has a tourism department and the Forestry Development
Authority has a National Parks Department. Is Dr. Somah
recommending a marriage of the two? In other words,
the two bodies exist (separately), and therefore no
need to recommend the establishment.
3. Deforestation is not a cause of biodiversity loss,
but rather, the causes of deforestation result to biodiversity
loss. The FDA/IDA/FAO natural resources survey of 1985
concluded that shifting agriculture is responsible for
95% of the deforestation in Liberia. There has been
no study to state otherwise. Therefore, we need to study
the farming system and find a way out from shifting
cultivation to mechanized farming. I gave Dr. Somah
a copy of Liberia's National Biodiversity Strategy and
Action Plan, which I coordinated. That study identified
several threats to Liberia's biodiversity. Go to www.biodiv.org,
click on NBSAP, and find Liberia.
4. Liberia does not have 900 species of elephants as
alleged by Dr. Somah. There is only one species of elephants
in Liberia, and that is the forest elephant, Loxodanta
Africana. Perhaps the reference is made to elephant
population. The last survey concluded in 1990 and published
in 1991 in the African Elephant Database put Liberia
at possessing about 1800 elephants, 9% of the elephant
population in West Africa. No other study has been conducted
extensively, but we believe this number is reduced significantly
due to several factors caused mainly by the war. There
are no lions in Liberia, and we do not have Nile Hippopotamus.
We have the Pigmy Hippopotamus, which is our flagship
species, because most of its population is found in
5. Dr. Somah is calling for Integrated National Environmental
Management Policy. We have already have in place the
National Environmental Policy of Liberia, the preparation
of which I coordinated in 2000 to 2001. The document,
along with the Environment Protection and Management
Law and the Environmental Protection Agency Act, were
enacted by the National Legislature, thus paving the
way for the creation of the Environmental Protection
Agency in 2003.
6. I agree with the need for landfills for waste disposal,
but the Fiamah Site does not need any more study. It
is an absolute disaster (in residential area), and must
7. Regarding fresh water fishing, I am a bit worried
about what we hope to achieve. Liberia's rivers are
not navigable, and may not be suitable for industrial
fishing. See the NBSAP again on rivers of Liberia.
Liberia will join other nations of the world to celebrate
World Environment Day, which falls on June 5, but will
be celebrated on June 6, since June 5 is on Sunday.
The Theme for 2005 is GREEN CITIES - PLAN FOR THE PLANET.
As chairman of the Environment Theme Group of Liberia,
I invite Dr. Somah to attend a workshop in Monrovia
to be held ahead of June 5, with date to be communicated.
Ben Turtur Donnie
C/O UNDP Liberia
Simpson Building, Sekou Toure Avenue, Mamba Point
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