Higher Education for Conservation Activity (HECA)

Engages Stakeholders in Nimba to Strengthen Biodiversity Conservation and Natural Resources Management in Liberia

Written by Dr. BK Robertson, Chief of Party and Executive Director
Dr. Layli Maparyan, Executive Director, Wellesley Centers for Women, Higher Education for Conservation Activity (HECA) 

The Higher Education for Conservation Activity (HECA) participated in a town hall meeting organized and led by the Minister of Internal Affairs with the Nimba County Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent, and Statutory Superintendent. Other local officials, including town chiefs, elders, chairladies, and youth leaders, represented the towns of Gbloulay, Beahlay, Tounpea, and Zuahplay. Over 125 people attended this event. The purpose of the Town Hall was to convey to the stakeholders that Liberia is one of the most important forested countries in the world, and that forest-dependent communities are critical to strengthening forest management and biodiversity conservation in Nimba County. The HECA team was acknowledged for its role in improving forestry education in Liberia, which will benefit Nimba’s forest communities. 

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded the University of Georgia (UGA) approximately $5 million for the implementation of a program entitled Higher Education for Conservation Activity (HECA) Liberia. 

The activity aims to strengthen forest management and conservation in Liberia through education, training, and technical assistance. The University of Georgia in collaboration with Alabama A&M University, Tuskegee University, the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College, the University Consortium for Liberia in the United States, the University of Liberia, and the Forestry Training Institute in Liberia will jointly work to establish a Center of Excellence in Forestry, Biodiversity, Conservation, and Green Enterprise Development (“the FBC Center”).

A highlight of the HECA team’s March trip to Liberia was the delivery of two capacity building workshops for faculty at the University of Liberia (UL) and the Forestry Training Institute (FTI). These workshops focused on curriculum development for forestry, biodiversity, and conservation (“FBC”), plus soft skills education, which adds professional and interpersonal skills, such as leadership, teamwork, conflict-resolution, cultural sensitivity, self-confidence, and respect for nature, to technical knowledge. Thirty-six faculty from the two institutions attended. The HECA team also held focus groups with 112 students at UL and 87 students at FTI to learn more about their views on the most important soft skills for FBC education – data to be compiled with that from the faculty. During its time in Nimba County, the HECA team was welcomed by the president and dean of Nimba University plus an assembled group of over 100 students and faculty in forestry and related fields.

During its travels, the HECA team emphasized the need for more women in forestry as well as the need to engage more youth and persons with disabilities. One highlight was learning that the female students at FTI had formed a women’s forestry club in response to HECA’s emphasis on women’s empowerment in the forestry sector.

The team plans to establish a Green Enterprise Hub at the FBC Center. “We will learn from the community on how we can better help manage the forest, and how we can encourage youth to study forestry, biodiversity and conservation,” stated the Chief of Party, Dr. B.K. Robertson.

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