Forest Health Futures, Liberia
More than one in three outbreaks of new and emerging disease are linked to land-use change, especially the conversion of forest into agriculture. West Africa has lost more than 80 percent of its forest cover in the past century alone.
Recent discoveries of viruses not previously thought to be endemic to the region, such as Ebola and Marburg, indicate that strategic land use planning is essential to ensure that these pathogens aren’t able to repeat the destruction of the largest ever Ebola outbreak, which lasted from 2013 to 2016.
Much of Liberia is covered by the Upper Guinean Forest, a global biodiversity hotspot
When naturally forested land is degraded, animals that called that land home are forced into greater contact with humans, thereby increasing the risk of disease spread.
Forest Health Futures, Liberia is a three-year project which aims to align expanding extractive industries and forest conservation. With its project Infectious Disease Emergence and Economics of Altered Landscapes (IDEEAL), EcoHealth Alliance provides a proof-of-concept for using bioeconomic modelling to determine areas most valuable for conservation, as well as targeting the ideal level of development to prioritize both economic growth and human well-being.
Much of the forest loss in West Africa is due to increased agricultural demands and growing industries (Photo: USGS)
The goals of Forest Health Futures, Liberia are:
- Use site-specific primary and secondary data to inform land-use planning and assess the true cost of land-use change
- Apply EcoHealth Alliance’s land-use planner framework to identify forested areas for conservation to maximize economic development, avoid loss of high carbon stocks and biodiversity, and minimize the infectious disease burden.
- Assess future land-use plans under different forecasts of commodity yield, production profits, and ecosystem service values.
- Strengthen in-country capacity through trainings in industry-forward skills like GIS, R, and land-use planning tools created by EcoHealth Alliance, giving local experts the knowledge and tools to sustain conservation-minded growth long into the future.
- Create an audit protocol for use by agricultural and industry stakeholders to determine areas of disease risk, and produce a policy brief with recommendations on potential economic benefits of optimal targeted forest conservation and directed development.
A meeting of Forest Health Futures stakeholders in Monrovia, Liberia
Liberia currently has the highest proportion of intact forest remaining in West Africa, a region which spans the area from Mauritania to Nigeria. Work on the Forest Health Futures project began in January 2019.
Forest Health Futures is funded by a grant from Johnson & Johnson Services, Inc.