Development of a Sustainable Ecotourism Business Plan under the Liberia Forest Sector Project
- Client: Forestry Development Authority
- Project Duration: January - July, 2022
Liberia contains about 6.6 million hectares of lowland tropical forest that comprises 43 percent of the remaining Upper Guinea forests of West Africa. Most of Liberia’s rural population is dependent on forests for their resources. The rich biodiversity of Liberia’s rainforests is also home to endangered and critically endangered species such as the pygmy hippopotamus and African forest elephant. Yet, the country’s forests are under threat due to inadequate oversight and enforcement and continued deforestation and forest degradation for the expansion of agriculture, illegal logging, mining activities.
Liberia’s Forestry Development Authority’s Liberia Forest Sector Project aims to contribute to the conservation of Liberia’s globally significant biodiversity by including better representation of ecosystems within Liberia’s current protected areas network and enabling active conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity by local communities. To ensure that tourism and ecotourism are developed in ways that contribute to conservation and development, we will work closely with communities, NGO’s, government agencies, and other stakeholders in Liberia to define business and development plans for the Forestry Development Authority that are inclusive, sustainable, financially feasible, and responsive to market demand. We will start with the Northern Circuit, which includes the two most accessible protected areas in Liberia, both of which contain significant, varied, and important biodiversity and cultural assets.
We understand that tourism can contribute directly to the conservation of protected areas by attracting visitors from a variety of potential markets to important wildlife sites to learn about, participate in, and support local economies. Revenue from protected areas tourism can be allocated to pay for the protection and management of environmentally sensitive areas, while other tourism revenues can provide incentives to local communities to value and protect their natural resources, traditions, and culture.
- Collect and review recent ecotourism development plans or studies and reach out to stakeholders and partner organizations for important contributions and inputs into the business planning process
- Develop a Northern Circuit that will showcase the richness and variety of Liberia’s ecotourism offer in this area and provide a model for ecotourism development that can be replicated throughout the country’s protected areas network
- Conduct training programs on ecotourism for Forestry Development Authority staff working in the protected areas. The modules will cover aspects related to customer relations, community engagement, guiding, and tourism service delivery
- Design general ecotourism awareness sessions for local communities that will cover aspects of general awareness of tourism presence (including international tourists) and basic principles of engagement with the tourists
- Define strategies that will deliver meaningful benefits to communities living near protected areas, support conservation of critical environmental resources, and celebrate and preserve traditional culture
- A business plan that includes overall strategy and detailed implementation plans created for development of sustainable tourism in Northwest Liberia, from Gola National Park to Lake Piso Multiple Use Reserve, including business plans for both protected areas as standalone tourism destinations and integrated into a Northern Circuit that can be marketed to a wide variety of target market segments
- Sustainable tourism approaches included in the plan to integrate communities living near protected areas who rely on protected area resources, promote conservation of critical biodiversity, create sustainable livelihoods, and celebrate local culture
- Liberia’s ecotourism industry promoted as a strategy for broad-based economic development