By Michael Adaji, Communications Specialist

The USAID-funded West Africa Trade & Investment Hub (Trade Hub) co-investment partner, Libassa Ecolodge, has launched its new ecolodge, Warkolor Jungle Lodge & Forest Reserve, in Robertsport, Grand Cape County.

The event, which took place on May 10, 2024, had in attendance several distinguished guests, including Catherine Rodriguez, Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Liberia; Johnny Tarkpah, representative of the President of Liberia; and Hon. Rudolph J. Merab, Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA).

Speaking at the ceremony, the American Chargé d’Affaires for Liberia, Catherine Rodriguez, emphasized the U.S. Government’s commitment to conservation, biodiversity, and ecotourism. She also applauded the resilience of Libassa Ecolodge and highlighted the many ways they have promoted conservation in the area. According to her, “I commend Libassa for many ways they have advanced conservation, including training ecoguards, building new attractions like hiking trails, and using the forest reserve as a safe release site for animals previously endangered.”

The inauguration of the Warkolor Jungle Lodge & Reserve underscores a significant co-investment project aimed at conserving the 1,844 hectares of Warkolor forest and highlights the critical role of private sector investment in enhancing the Liberian tourism sector, which not only helps preserve the nation’s natural heritage but also provides sustainable livelihood alternatives to local communities.

According to Rudolph Antoune, Co-Founder of Libassa Ecolodge, “The Warkolor Jungle Lodge & Reserve is now the largest employer in Robertsport and will also become the principal taxpayer.”

The facility features a bed & breakfast setup with nine lodges, including four suites and five standard lodges, a conference room, swimming pool, restaurant, and bar. It also boasts a 40kVa solar power system, enhancing its eco-friendliness by reducing its carbon footprint.

On his part, Rudolph Merab, the Managing Director of Liberia’s Forestry Development Authority (FDA), expressed his delight at the new project by saying, “I am glad that Rudolph has started something here that we all have dreamed of, that is, taking our natural beauty and making it open for others to see.”

In total, the ecolodge has already generated 140 jobs, including 40 permanent positions for young people from the host communities of Sembehun, Torsor, and Robertsport.

In his remarks, the paramount chief of the commonwealth district, Mr. Haji Sombali, conveyed his appreciation, stating, “We are happy that it has come to fruition because it will benefit the future of our children.”

The ceremony concluded with a ribbon-cutting by the founders of Libassa Ecolodge, Rudolph and Lisa Antoune, alongside dignitaries, including the American Chargé d’Affaires for Liberia, Catherine Rodriguez and representatives of the Liberian government.