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Green Revolution Aims to Stem Deforestation in Liberia

Revolution is in the air in Liberia. Or, more accurately, in the forests, which cover more than 40 per cent of the country and are considered one of west Africa’s most important carbon sinks and biodiversity hotspots.

The movement is not seeking to topple the government. Indeed it is the administration, backed by more than $150m of international aid, that is driving the policy upheaval. The aim is to enable the country and communities to make money — possibly tens of millions of dollars a year — from reduced carbon emissions.

The UN estimates that 30,000 hectares of primary Liberian forest is cleared each year.

In theory, the scheme is simple: Liberians will be paid to leave the forests alone. First, carbon levels are measured in a forest. Then, if the land is not cleared, the carbon that is retained in the forest — or not emitted through clearing — can be sold as offsets.

“One of the main drivers of deforestation is the kind of agriculture we do — it’s mostly shifting cultivation,” says Harrison Karnwea, managing director of Liberia’s Forestry Development Authority, referring to the nomadic way of life led by many of the two-thirds of Liberians who live in forests. “We need to change that. We also think the forests can make money without cutting down the trees.”

Program on Forests

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