Fog forms over a forest in Zorzor, Lofa. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue  

By Varney Kamara

MONROVIA – Conservation groups on Tuesday introduced a new software aimed at assisting forest monitors preserve protected areas across protected areas in Liberia.

Known as the integrated management effectiveness tool (IMET), the global biodiversity monitoring software meant to improve conservation across protected areas in the Gola forest and other national parks is a three-year transboundary project to be implemented in Liberia and Sierra Leone. More than 20 forest technicians from various conservation groups across the country are participating in the training, which ends Friday. Trainees are expected to be deployed across the park two months from now, where they would make full use of the new technology.

IMET software is crucial for safeguarding critical biodiversity and habitats, providing many benefits to human well-being and wildlife, according to the organizers of the seminar. The new forest tool guides rangers to provide more significant perspectives on their management of the forest, which is crucial to poor, populous countries. The software can be programmed on a laptop.

Introduced in 2014 across Central and West Africa, IMET has already recorded great successes in Burundi and Kenya. Nigeria and Ghana are now making preparations to adopt it. The forest innovation has also been weaved into nature preservation programs in nations across the Caribbean and the Pacific.  

“IMET is a tool used to collect data, to integrate data, and to analyze data that are important to the management of protected forest areas,” Nzigiyimpa Lemidas, IMET’s coach and facilitator at the training, said. “IMET has a management context, planning, and resource components. It is meant for managers to make the right decisions and to identify priorities.”

Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia (SCNL), which helped organize the training, welcomed the introduction of the technology in Libera. 

“It’s the best tool around the world in terms of conservation, protection of wildlife and the management of protected areas,” Marcus Garbo, Executive Director of the group, said. “It’s a global tracking tool to determine threats in the Gola forest, and will serve as a dashboard for conservation groups across Liberia.”

The introduction of the technology comes at a time when campaigners and partners are harnessing and mending concerted efforts in thwarting activities that threaten the safety of the park. Established by an act of Legislation in 2018, the Gola National Park of Liberia, s home to endangered and endemic species. It covers 88,000 hectares of forest land, extending into Sierra Leone. However, the park faces constant threats from illegal hunting and mining.  

“We want to put Gola at the pride of Africa,” Alade Adeleke, Country Program Manager of the Royal Society for the Preservation of Birds (RSPB), an English based charitable organization partnering with the SCNL and other conservation groups to implement the US$3 million European Union-sponsored IMET project. “This is only possible by training young people the technology to track illegal activities across the forest. This is also part of international efforts to control global warming and climate change.”

Authorities at the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), which has oversight over the country’s forests, expressed enthusiasm about the new forest software.

“This is a new eye-opener for us,” Blama Goll, technical manager of the department of conservation at the FDA. “This is about checking on your strength, weaknesses and improving on those weaknesses. It will help to positively impact law enforcement and the ecosystem, natural resource governance and biodiversity.”

Folks at the Liberia Land Authority (LLA), which oversees land tenure, management, and governance in the country, showed a similar spirit about the initiative. “The training will help us at the LLA to be very effective in formalizing customary lands, especially in the land use plan,” said Martha Summerville, Gender Community Development Officer, LLA.

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