The USAID-funded West Africa Trade & Investment Hub (Trade Hub) awarded co-investment grants to protect forests and wildlife in Liberia through the establishment of two ecolodges—the Nimba Ecolodge & Reserve in the East Nimba Nature Reserve and Libassa Ecolodge in Warkolor Forest.
Both areas are vulnerable to illegal logging, farming, mining, and hunting because of a lack of other sources of income.
The East Nimba Nature Reserve is one of the world’s most severely threatened forest systems. Spanning 11,553 hectares, it is also home to many endangered species, including the western chimpanzee, the nearly extinct Nimba otter shrew, a toad found only in Liberia, and the giant African swallowtail, the world’s largest butterfly.
The Warkolor Forest is an expanse of 1,844 hectares. Threats to the habitat are causing the near extinction of western chimpanzees and the forest’s remaining Diana monkeys. Forest buffalos are also under threat. The African pythons, manatees, and crocodiles currently found in nearby Lake Piso are also at risk of disappearing.
Protecting Liberia’s nature and wildlife is important to the Government of Liberia, but funding to do so is very limited. The Trade Hub’s co-investments in the ecolodges—its first two in Liberia—are a novel approach to address this challenge.
In partnership with the Trade Hub, the Libassa Ecolodge and the Nimba Ecolodge & Reserve will invest in building eco-friendly infrastructures and establish sustainable ecotourism activities that will benefit surrounding communities, including through jobs in tourism.
“This project aligns with our mission because the new infrastructure will generate revenue and lead to sustainable jobs for the surrounding communities while simultaneously being a de facto protection for the forest and its unique wildlife,” says Rudolph Antoune, Proprietor and Project Director of the Libassa Ecolodge.
The Trade Hub awarded a $262,124 co-investment grant to Libassa Ecolodge, which will help conserve 1,844 hectares of forest. Libassa Ecolodge is also contributing $370,700 towards the project for a total investment of $632,824.
The ecolodge will open in December 2023 and will immediately start generating sustainable revenue. During the construction and operation of the lodge, 167 jobs will be created, and Libassa Ecolodge will provide training for local workers, including in carpentry, masonry, nature preservation, and management.
The Trade Hub awarded a $335,349 co-investment grant to Nimba Ecolodge & Reserve, which will preserve approximately 11,553 hectares of forest. Nimba Ecolodge & Reserve will contribute $468,841 to support the project, for a total initial investment of $804,190.
As part of the ecolodge’s nature preservation plan, gates that can be locked will be erected at unguarded points, and one welcome entrance into the reserve will be created to protect vulnerable species.
“Our goal is to build an eco-conscious tourism facility and safeguard plant and animal species, which will stimulate the local economy through job creation and economic activities,” says Joseph Wamah Sr., Chairman of the Board of Directors of Nimba Ecolodge & Reserve.
By February 2024, the Nimba Ecolodge & Reserve expects to attract short- and long-term visitors and overnight guests. Its construction and operations will also lead to the employment of 85 people.
The Government of Liberia, through the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with both Nimba Ecolodge & Reserve and Libassa Ecolodge to develop ecotourism in the East Nimba Nature Reserve (ENNR) and Warkolor Forest, respectively.
The agreements will ensure that while the ecotourism enterprises are established, proper law enforcement measures are implemented, and biodiversity conservation is prioritized. Further, all parties will work to ensure that the natural and man-made infrastructures are developed and well-maintained, and there will be an ongoing focus on mutually beneficial community engagements.
The MoUs were signed on behalf of the Liberian government by the Managing Director of the FDA, Hon. C. Mike Doryen. For the private sector firms, Mr. Joseph N. Wamah Sr., Chairman of the Board of Directors, signed for Nimba Ecolodge; and Mr. Rudolph Antoune, Proprietor and Project Director, signed for Libassa Ecolodge.
The signing ceremony occurred at the Head Office of the ForestryDevelopment Authority in Whien Town, Mount Barclay, on September 20, 2022.
“The signing of these MoUs is an exciting development, marking the commencement of work on the land allocated for the ecolodges and allowing these agreements to move from paper to what directly impacts lives, communities, and the environment,” states the Trade Hub’s Chief of Party, Robin Wheeler. “Beyond marking a new chapter for the businesses that are being established and sustained and advancing the success of the ecotourism sector in Liberia, the expected impacts on the lives of those who will remain and become employed, and on the conservation of the biodiversity and wildlife in these areas are immeasurable.”
About the Trade Hub: The West Africa Trade & Investment Hub (Trade Hub) is a USAID-funded initiative that catalyzes economic growth through co-investing with the private sector to generate new investment, create new jobs, and increase the value of regional and international exports in West Africa.
About USAID: The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the lead U.S. Government agency that works to end extreme global poverty and enable resilient, democratic societies to realize their potential.
For media inquiries, please contact:
Blessing Lass, Trade Hub