The official launch took place at the Mount Zion New Life Church ideally located alongside the 72nd Broad Street. It brought together students from 7 schools in the 72nd, Police Academy, and Samuel Kanyon Doe (SKD) Boulevard Communities.
A host of dignitary who rose to the occasion included Madam Lilieth Whyte, Economic Officer of the U.S. Embassy Monrovia; Honorable Darlington Tuagben, Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority; Honorable Urias S. Goll, Deputy Executive Director of the Environment Protection Agency; and representatives from the Society for the Conservation of Nature and Farmers Associated to Conserve the Environment.
Providing a synopsis of the project, Stephen B. Lavalah, founder & executive director of YES disclosed that together with all stakeholders, the project will organize two inter-generational and grassroots community-based ‘Trash Clean-up Day’ initiatives; embark on the removal of garbage sites in the wetlands through a community-driven and youth-oriented ‘Garbage Must Go Now’ campaign; and hold environmental reforestation and restoration through ‘Coconut Tree Planting’ event and create the first ‘Green Space’ alongside the SKD Boulevard.
The youth leader further stressed that the project will also involve a crowd-souring and voluntary grassroots-based solutions to solving some of the most critical and pressing issues facing the wetlands and mangroves alongside the SKD Boulevard through the ‘Liberian Environmental Awareness Forum’.
Delivering an inspiring keynote address, Madam Lilieth Whyte, Economic Officer of the U.S. Embassy Monrovia spoke of the need to combat climate change and tackle the environmental challenges that Liberia’s wetlands and mangroves are experiencing.
The U.S. diplomat indicated that Climate Change is occurring as a result of natural factors and human activities. However, according to Madam Whyte, there are still some uncertainties in understanding a complex system like the Earth’s climate, there is a strong, credible body of evidence, based on multiple lines of research, documenting that climate is changing and that these changes are in large part caused by human activities.
Madam Whyte urged people to utilize mitigation and adaptation aim to reduce greenhouse gases emissions. She stressed the need to reduce fuel consumption, walk more and rely less on vehicles, stop removing trees from the mangroves to produce charcoal, and reduce garbage disposal in wetlands and mangroves.
“Mangroves are among the most productive and biologically complex ecosystems. They allow many species to thrive from starfish to monkey and are important for local communities living along the coastlines. Mangroves are trees or large shrubs which are salt-tolerant and grow in intertidal zones in tropical and subtropical regions. They form dense forests along many tropical and subtropical coasts, are found in 123 countries and territories, including Monrovia, and are estimated to cover over 150,000 square kilometers globally” Madam Whyte declared.
Madam Whyte averred researchers have discovered that there is good evidence that, in the right circumstances, Mangroves: Can help to reduce vulnerability to climate-related coastal hazards. Mangrove trees and root structures reduce erosion and provide protection from waves and water movement. It is home to a large variety of fish, crab, shrimp, and serve as a habitat and nursery ground for fish and other marine species, supporting fisheries and livelihoods. It maintains water quality and clarity, filter pollutants, and trapping sediments originating from land. And mangroves may be responsible for as much as 10% of all emissions from deforestation globally.
“Liberia’s wetlands and mangroves are important to the survival of animals, marine life, and humans; we can save communities, improve economic stability for families, and protect endangered species. The structural diversity of mangrove roots and their position at the interface between land and sea gives mangroves an important role as habitats for numerous species” the Economic Officer of the U.S. Embassy pointed out.
The staunch environmental enthusiast revealed human activities, including conversion to aquaculture, coastal development, overexploitation of timber and pollution, have been the primary causes of mangrove loss. Hence, Madam Whyte is calling on Liberians of all ages and gender most especially young people to take the lead in protecting the wetlands and mangroves in order to make a safer, cleaner, and more beautiful Liberia.
Madam Whyte divulged to the young audience: “You are never too young to engage your government officials and seek their intervention to introduce alternative jobs for people that are living in the vicinity of mangroves, so that they may aim to reduce dependency on activities that are destroying the mangroves”
Officially launching the project, Honorable Darlington Tuagben, Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) who spoke on the topic ‘Living Well within Our Environment” emphasized that the protection and preservation of the environment is a pressing issue where every person, organization, and institution has an obligation and duty to protect it.
“Environmental consciousness deserves to be propagated at all levels and environmental conservation can be achieved if we all share a single though, the thought of creating a better Liberia to live in, the thought to give a better deal to all citizens, the present as well as the future generation, who all have the share the Almighty’s great gifts of clean environment and abundant natural resources on this planet” the Managing Director of FDA maintained.
Honorable Tuagben continues: “It is our respective responsibilities to play our assigned role to the best of our capability to save Liberia’s forest, wildlife, and the environment. What is needed most is our commitment and dedication to the cause of protection of the environment.
The Managing Director of FDA cautioned that we have to educate, spread awareness, involve and motivate every child, woman, and man in our country to conserve the local flora and fauna, soil and water, resources and all other gifts of God which are national properties and belong to all and to none individually.
For his part, Honorable Urias S. Goll, Deputy Executive Director of the EPA stated: “We cannot continue throwing our waste in the wetlands, cutting down the mangroves, building latrine facilities in the wetlands and mangroves, connecting sewage pipelines to the wetlands, filling in the wetlands to construct our homes; we must do everything in our power to safeguard the wetlands and mangroves”.
Honorable Goll has pledged to support the Drama Team of the Mount Zion Christian Academy due to their excellent performance. He also urged everyone especially young people to take positive actions in protecting the wetlands and mangroves for the common good of ourselves, our children, grandchildren, and generation yet unborn.
Moses Massah of the UNDP expressed gratitude to Honorable Goll and the entire EPA family for developing an innovative idea to involve young people in the protection, preservation, and conservation of the wetlands and mangroves.
“Young people have the energy, enthusiasm, and innovation to drive sustainable environmental changes through a small and voluntary grassroots youth-led initiative in safeguarding the wetlands and mangroves because we are bond even more to the wonder, beauty and power of nature” Mr. Massah stated.