A new study on customary forest management practices and the relationship between livelihoods and forested landscapes in Liberia was launched at a seminar held in Monrovia on 2 October, 2009. The study was prepared as an activity of IUCN’s Livelihoods and Landscapes Strategy (LLS).
Since the long civil war, which ended in 2003, a major focus of the forest sector in Liberia has been on balancing the needs of conservation, commercial forestry and community forestry. Although community forestry is high on the forest policy agenda, relatively little is known about the wide variety of customary forest management institutions and arrangements. Similarly, while the importance of forests and forest products for rural livelihoods is acknowledged, there has been little systematic study and analysis of just how forests contribute to rural livelihoods.
The study explored these issues in seven diverse landscapes scattered throughout Liberia. The main objective was to gain a better understanding of forest and livelihood relationships in order to better inform future community forestry activities and to avoid the risk of imposing inappropriate interventions in the name of community forestry. A second objective was to select two landscapes which could be used by the LLS program as learning sites to inform community forest policy in future.
The study found that, despite common assumptions, many landscapes maintain customary methods and rules for the management of forest resources and that there are institutional practices for decision-making about use of these resources. The local institutions are diverse and well established.
The study also confirms the fact that rural people in many parts of Liberia rely heavily on a variety of trees, forests and other natural resources and products for their livelihoods. The study provides a picture of the diverse ways in which these different resources are used as livelihood assets.
Understanding Diversity: A Study of Livelihoods and Forest Landscapes in Liberia, prepared for the Livelihoods and Landscapes Strategy, IUCN The International Union for Conservation of Nature, Monrovia, September 2009, by Aiah Lebbie, Robert Fisher, Francis K. Odoom, Wollor Topor, Joe Flomo and Garvoie Kardoh (With the assistance of Lawrence Greene, Michael Fofanah, Boima Johnson, Tennema Coleman, Weedor Lamine, Hurlormah Worllarwulu)