BirdLife Partners in Indonesia and Sierra Leone are developing innovative approaches to save forests

Gola Forest, Sierra Leone © Alex Hipkiss/RSPB.

The governments of Sierra Leone and Indonesia, in collaboration with BirdLife Partners, are leading the way to demonstrate that strong political will can turn commitments made under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) into conservation action. Gola Forest (750 km2) in eastern Sierra Leone and Harapan Rainforest (1,010 km2) in Sumatra are immensely valuable for wildlife, essential resources for indigenous peoples, and make an important contribution to the fight against climate change.

Two large forest conservation projects—one in Sierra Leone and one in Indonesia—are clear examples of how national governments and civil society organizations can work together to convert commitments to the Convention on Biological Diversity into real conservation action for biodiversity on the ground.

The Gola Forest Conservation Concession Programme (GFCCP) was established in 2005 in response to the government of Sierra Leone’s commitment both to the UN’s Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty and promote sustainable development as well meet the CBD’s ‘Programme of Work on Protected Areas’. GFCCP is a collaboration between the government and two BirdLife Partners: the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (UK) working with local communities living in chiefdoms. A fund has been established to meet the costs of managing the 750-km2 forest for biodiversity in the long term, and to support continuing community development programmes. This will protect Gola from logging and train more than 100 local people to patrol the reserve and run education programmes. The chiefdoms are compensated for relinquishing logging rights and have already repaired roads and renovated schools, built churches and a mosque, and trained new police officers benefiting up to 100,000 people directly.

The Harapan initiative aims to protect and restore approximately 1,010 km2 of rainforest in Sumatra. The project is coordinated by Burung Indonesia (BirdLife in Indonesia), the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) and the BirdLife International Secretariat. It receives funding through the German Government’s International Climate Initiative (ICI), which works in conjunction with KfW, a development bank. The Indonesian government’s commitment to conserve these forests has resulted in a new law that allows production forest to be allocated for conservation and restoration. Without this initiative, the area would almost certainly have been cleared, burned and converted to timber and oil palm plantations, like surrounding forest lands.