The Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia (EPA) recently concluded a three–day training workshop in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County to raise awareness on benefits that can be realized through mainstreaming the three Rio Conventions into sustainable development priorities.
The three Rio Conventions are: Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
The Regional Stakeholders’ Consultative and Awareness Training Workshop on the Three Rio Conventions, which attracted about 70 participants representing government institutions, civil society organizations, youth and women groups, media, academia and farmers helped identified the specific pending issues that need to be tackled in relation to implementing the Rio Conventions.
Speaking at the start of the workshop, the Cross-Cuttting Capacity Development (CCCD) Project Manager, Aaron S. M. Wesseh said that the purpose of the gathering was to raise awareness among stakeholders and as well build the capacity of participants.
The EPA is implementing the Cross Cutting Capacity Development (CCCD) Project with funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
The goal of the project is to improve Liberia’s capacity to make better decisions to meet and sustain global obligations especially those pertaining to the Rio Conventions.
This, according to Mr. Wesseh requires the country to have the capacity to coordinate efforts, as well as best practices for integrating global environmental priorities into planning, decision-making, and reporting processes.
He further stated that the workshop is also intended to raise awareness and share information about the benefits of the three Rio conventions as well as generate public interest that facilitates the participation of local stakeholders.
Mr. Wesseh added that at the end of the project, activities will have resulted in a set of improved capacities to meet and sustain Rio Convention objectives.
“This project will have strengthened and helped institutionalize commitments under the Rio Conventions by ensuring a flow of assistance and information between the local, national and global level,” he noted.
“Key to this is raising awareness among stakeholders as programmed in the work plan of the CCCD project,” he added.
Mr. Wesseh noted that the forum anticipated that best consultative and decision-making processes are negotiated; awareness plans are created on the three Rio conventions and regional stakeholders’ awareness raised interest generated.
In a statement made on behalf of EPA Executive Director, Nathaniel T. Blama, EPA Manager for Planning and Policy, Z. Elijah Whapoe highlighted the core function of the EPA relative to its regulatory role.
He lauded participates and admonished them to take advantage of the workshop, which is intended to build their capacity especially on the three Rio Conventions.
He further stressed that the cooperation of the participants is key and their constant engagement and involvement are critical to the sustenance of the environment.
Referencing global initiatives such as the Paris Agreement and the recently held Blue Ocean conference, Mr. Whapoe stressed the importance of the environment and need for protecting it.
Speaking further, he disclosed that the EPA is in the process of preparing the next “State of the Environment Report” and encouraged everyone to take keen interest in sustaining the environment.
He admonished participants to reflect on what they will be taking away from the workshop and noted that the EPA has developed a communication strategy that will be rolled out very soon.
Also speaking, United Nations Program Analyst, Willie B. Davies lauded facilitators and participants, who he encouraged to take advantage of the stakeholders’ awareness and training to enhance their knowledge on the three Rio Conventions.
He conveyed sentiments from his boss, Mr. Doslah Facathy who according to him could not be present due to pressing engagement.
The training brought together several facilitators including Tennema M. Coleman who lectured on ‘Convention on Biological Diversity’.
In the presentation made on behalf of J. Datuama Cammue, National Focal Point on the Convention on Biodiversity, Madam Coleman defined Biodiversity as variety of life on earth in all its forms and interactions.
According to her, the layers of biodiversity include, genetic, species and ecological and explained mass biodiversity loss is attributed to man influence.
She noted that the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) was birthed in June 1992 and entered into force in 1993; with the prime objectives to conserve biological resources.
Madam Coleman disclosed that the threats to biodiversity in Liberia are direct and indirect and explained that direct threats includes, agro-industrial crop plantation, rubber plantations, logging concessions, mining, invasive alien species or plants and shifting cultivation.
She named other direct threats as uncontrolled hunting, firewood collection and charcoal production; Indirect threat include, lack of land use policy and strategy, ineffective community-based forest management policy and strategy, extreme lack of ecosystem values, lack of recognition and use of indigenous knowledge systems, lack of national energy policy and strategy, poverty.
For his part, facilitator Emmanuel Peters said there are three critical Earth Summits (1992, 2002 and 2012) aimed at raising concerns and calling for action to reduce emission and global warming.
In a Powerpoint presentation on the topic ‘Introduction to Rio: Climate Change’, Mr. Peters said that what the World is confronted with is the situation that points to the changing nature of the Earth’s climate systems and the impacts exerted on life processes.
“For instance, there will be temperature increase; sea level rise that will result in flooding, drought, crop failure, Peter said Climate change is cross cutting and affects all sectors of society.
According to him, it undermines development and livelihood.
In a presentation on ‘Sustainable Land Management’, Mr. Berexford Jallah highlighted the impact desertification is having on the world and what needs to be done.
Desertification, according to him is the expansion of dry land and it is principally due to poor agricultural practices, improper soil management, forest removal, climate change.
Jallah explained that desertification is a major economic, social and environmental problem of concern to many countries in all regions of the world including Liberia.
“The evidence is compelling as revealed in text and maps of the severity of desertification globally, regionally and nationally. For example 4.5bn ha (35%) of the earth’s land has been lost to desertification. Africa and Asia are the worse hit jointly accounting for 64% ie. 32% each,” he noted.
For her part, facilitator Clara Gallagher spoke on the benefits of sustainable land management system to rural agriculture and food security and said sustainable land management is linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
She indicated that improved land management involves activities such as, participatory land use planning, governance and law enforcement, agro-ecological farming practices, sustainable firewood and charcoal supply management, sustainable wetland management, deforestation-free sustainable supply chains, forest and landscape restoration, restoration of ecological connectivity.
Aaron S. M. Wesseh in a presentation on Managing forests for climate change biodiversity conservation disclosed that land degradation, fragmentation, deforestation, soil erosion and pollution are major environmental challenges Liberia faces.
According to him, Liberia’s forest stock is being depleted at an alarming rate and noted that the country rich biodiversity is seriously at risk due to climate change impacts.
Facilitator Danise L. Dennis- Lakpor in a presentation on ‘the Role of the Media in Improving Environmental Awareness’ said mass media is perceived as a diversified collection of media technologies that reach a large audience via mass communication.
The most common platform for mass media, according to Madam Dennis-Lakpor are: newspapers, magazines, radio television and the internet, which she said inform, educate and entertain.
“Environmental awareness is principally about promoting knowledge about the environment on the disastrous impact on human development,” the EPA Communication Specialist added.