Today’s column takes on a dual nature- prose and poetry. It is dedicated to one of the two strict nature reserves in Liberia—The East Nimba Nature Reserve (ENNR)
The East Nimba Nature Reserve
The East Nimba Nature Reserve (ENNR) protects a portion of Liberia’s Nimba mountain range and covers an area measuring 11,533 hectares. Forming part of the Upper Guinea Forest Ecosystem of West Africa which extends from Guinea into eastern Sierra Leone; eastward through Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana and into western Togo; the ENNR is said to be the most significant part of the Upper Guinea rain forest, because it here that the forest block reaches its most developed stage from an ecological and evaluative perspective. (Verschuren , 1983).
The ENNR located in northern Liberia, is in close proximity to where ArcelorMittal Liberia is carrying on its mining operations, which means the company must place environment management as a top priority. The reserve contains a number of endangered species, such as the Nimba Toad (Nimbaphrynoides occidentalis liberiensis), the Nimba Otter shrew (Micropotamogale lamoteii), and the endangered West African Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus). Furthermore, about 70% of the reserve is forested and serves as an important livelihood source for surrounding communities who rely on its forests for food, medicine (herbs) and other basic necessities..
In 2003, the National Legislature passed an Act establishing the ENNR. However, when the ACT was passed, Liberia was in a transient political phase and the vestiges of the decades of civil war were still visible. Consequently, the Forestry
Development Authority (FDA) faced problems in creating awareness and reaching an understanding with the community dwellers regarding the management of the ENNR. Residents continued to hunt, farm and use the reserve as they saw fit for their survival- thereby subscribing to the “free for all: approach to the flora and fauna in the reserve.
The 2003 Act also called for the establishment of a Co-management Committee (CMC) for the reserve, and in 2010, this committee made of six members from the surrounding communities (Gba, Zor and Sehyi) and six members from the FDA was established, and signed a Co-Management Agreement. This agreement gave authority to the CMC to manage the ENNR for the next five years.
In April 2013, ArcelorMittal Liberia through its Biodiversity Conservation Program (BCP), partnered with Conservation International and organized an ENNR Management Plan workshop, bringing together fifty-two stakeholders. The group discussed the current state of the ENNR, their expectations, and worked towards a consensus for an interim management plan for the reserve. As a result of this workshop, in March 2014, the BCP announced the development and validation of a Management Plan for the ENNR, which was formally endorsed by the FDA and ENNR CMC at the end of a two –day workshop in Sanniquellie. Groups present at this event included ArcelorMittal Liberia BCP, FDA, ENNR CMC, Fauna and Flora International (FFI), CI, USAID/PROSPER, and community dwellers.
Nearly one month later, on April 22, the management of the ENNR was further strengthened when six pilot conservation agreements (CA), aimed at promoting biodiversity conservation and livelihood development within communities around the East Nimba Nature Reserve (ENNR), were signed. A formal signing ceremony was held in Zortapa, Nimba County and attended by officials from Nimba County including County Superintendent Fong Zuagele, and Development Superintendent Dor Cooper; residents of the CA communities; the Forestry Development Authority (FDA); ENNR Co-Management Committee (CMC); Conservation International (CI); ArcelorMittal Liberia’s Biodiversity Conservation Program (BCP); and several other stakeholders.
In view of these monumental efforts been made towards the conservation of this very important ecological asset of Liberia, the ode ( a poem of praise and respect) below is dedicated to the ENNR and all the stakeholders that have worked to reach this point.
Ode to the ENNR by Jerry M. Mwagbe
ENNR, Oh ENNR, to many thou art an Acronym so unfamiliar.
But if to these lines, they set their eyes; then they’ll know Thou art indeed peculiar;
First let me for the unfamiliar decipher the four letters of your acronym,
So that the world will know, that East Nimba Nature Reserve is your name.
Thou art indeed a handiwork of the Omnipotent designer of Mother Nature,
Yet, we are belated in our knowledge in understanding that Thou art a great treasure.
Long before the Liberian Legislature Passed the 2003 recognition of thee in an ACT,
You had with many endangered species of the world entered into a survival Pact.
You cover an acreage that amounts to a little over a score plus ten,
And your composition is made of forests whose percentage is three scores plus ten.
Within your confines we find some of our planet’s most endangered species,
Providing them protection and survival so they don’t end up as human feces.
The Nimba Toad, the otter shrew and a colony of West African chimps,
Have all depended on you for their survival and protection from nature’s greatest imps.
Pathetically, with all the knowledge I gained from all my years in life’s university,
It is only this year I became knowledgeable about your endowed biodiversity.
Oh! How I wish that you could be a National Geographic’s feature,
So that it canvasses for you and presents the world your true picture.
You truly deserve to be recognized as a strict nature reserve,
So that Liberians and the world would your territory strictly preserve.
I may not write as Thomas Gray, that great professor from Cambridge,
Nor may this ode read like anything penned by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
What I have attempted to capture in this my incoherent poetical feat
Can in no way compare to the Ode to Melancholy written by John Keats.
My pen is not as mighty as the great W.H. Auden,
So the effect of these lines I do not expect to be sudden.
Indeed this ode can never rise to the level of one written by Percy Bysshe Shelley,
But thank God, my rhymes are way better than the rapper Nelly.
For some this ode may not be an ode in the true literary sense,
And is definitely not written as it would have like those Greeks so ancient,
Yes, this Ode is neither Pindaric nor Horatian, but indeed very irregular
But its raison d’etre is to make the unfamiliar to be become familiar
ENNR, oh my beloved East Nimba Nature Reserve
These lines are meant to glorify and your honor preserve
While saluting Arcelor Mittal and Conservation International
For what they have done to make your preservation intentional
ENNR, my dear East Nimba Nature Reserve
May Liberians your flora and fauna preserve
For as long as men live and eyes can see
These lines shall preserve and gave honor to thee.