Gola Rainforest Project: Connecting Forests & PeopleSierra Leone
The Gola Rainforest project is a catalyst for peace, prosperity and national pride in Sierra Leone, ensuring that the globally important habitats, biodiversity and environmental services of the Gola Rainforest National Park and the wider Gola landscape are conserved and that neighbouring communities are active environmental stewards of the natural resource base that underpins and enhances their livelihoods.
- Gola is located in Sierra Leone and is West Africa's first REDD+ Project.
- Protects the largest area of rainforest in Sierra Leone and protects 60 globally threatened species.
- Promotes sustainable development and livelihood activities for 122 forest edge communities (~24,000 people) in the world's 8th poorest country.
The project is the first VCS and CCB validated and verified REDD+ project in West Africa.
The protection of the largest remaining area of Upper Guinea Rainforest in Sierra Leone covering 70,000ha, an internationally recognised hotspot for wildlife.
The project leads the way towards our vision of a Greater Gola Landscape spanning across Liberia and Sierra Leone, which will sustainably manage over 350,000ha and will conserve the single last largest remnant of Upper Guinea Forest.
The protection of over 300 species of birds, close to 600 species of butterflies, but also 49 species of larger mammals including chimpanzees, forest elephants and the enigmatic pygmy hippo.
Community benefits: 122 communities (approximately 24,000 people) directly benefit from livelihood projects. These focus on sustainable agriculture and cocoa rehabilitation to improve quality and yields, as well as saving and lending schemes, 700 scholarships for secondary education every year.
The project protects the critical forest habitat for 60 globally threatened species living in one of the largest remnants of Upper Guinea Rainforest. Some of the flagship species that are protected include:
- Out of the 49 species of large mammals known to occur here, 9 are globally threatened, including the Pygmy Hippopotamus, Western Chimpanzee, Jentink's duiker and African Forest Elephant.
- 327 different species of birds. Flagship threatened birds include White Necked Picathartes, Rufous Fishing-Owl and Gola Malimbe.
- Over 600 species of butterflies which is over 80% of all those known for Sierra Leone.
- 2800 species of vascular plants known to occur here, of which about 650 are endemic to the region.
- Home to 43 amphibian species, highly dependent on the forest, including the critically endangered Tai toad.
More than half of Sierra Leone was covered with rainforest 100 years ago, but actual forest cover is now approximately 5%. It is clear that the conservation of Gola is absolutely critical for the survival of the highly threatened Upper Guinea Forest ecosystem and its species in the country.
The project provides critical ecosystem services and the forest acts as a natural resource base which serves to underpin local livelihoods. The most important services are carbon sequestration and watershed protection but in addition, the forest also plays a role in erosion prevention, climate regulation and the supply of wild pollinators for growing coffee and other crops important for livelihoods.
The project works with 122 forest edge communities (24000 people). After an extensive consultation process, Gola developed a suite of livelihood activities focused on sustainable agriculture, income generation and improved natural resource management.
Gola's model partly relies on Farmer Field Schools, with several thousand farmers already registered and who are trained throughout the agricultural calendar. Demonstration plots are key to showcasing the direct benefits of the approaches being taught.
At the heart of the project lies the principle of partnership and active engagement of local communities. This is no better symbolized than by Gola's governance system and our grievance mechanism for example, always seeking for local communities to become active environmental stewards.
All work directly contributes to post-Ebola recovery efforts, especially since the project area was at one stage at the epicentre of the outbreak.
The project also directly employs 170 Sierra Leone Nationals who come in majority from forest edge communities themselves.
After its first independent verification audit late 2015, the Gola REDD Project successfully avoided the emissions of 1.19 million tonnes of CO2. It was validated and verified to the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and to the Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCB) standard for which it achieved Double Gold levels, (Climate Change Adaptation and Biodiversity).