The Liberian experience

EFA relocated to Liberia after a coup d’etat in Freetown made it too dangerous to work in Sierra Leone
in May 1997. EFA had just begun to see its community-based land reclamation work in one of the
artisanal diamond mining regions of Sierra Leone take off.
The socio-economic and environmental context in Liberia was quite similar to that if Sierra Leone. Also
Liberia was hosting more than 50,000 Sierra Leonean refugees situated in 6 camps in Montserrado and
Grand Cape Mount counties.
This period also corresponded with the ‘end’ of the war in Liberia and restoration of democratic
governance, with the election of President Charles Taylor. Thus, in addition to hosting refugees from
Sierra Leone, Liberia also needed to receive tens of thousands of its own citizens, the vast majority of
whom who had been refugees in neighboring Guinea, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone.
The establishment of returnee-camps all over the country, to receive and temporarily host Liberians
returning from asylum, created opportunities for EFA to initiate a pilot project of environmental
awareness, education, and tree planting targeting five different kinds of settlements: refugee camp;
returnee camp; school campus; a university campus; and a local community that survived the 10-year
war. Over a 2-year period EFA targeted 45 schools, 6 refugee camps, 3 returnee camps, and seven local
communities in the Montserrado and Nimba counties, actively raising awareness about the
environment, promoting energy conservation and reforestation of degraded land. By 1998, EFA had
effectively become an implementing partner of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees
(UNHCR) for environmental action in refugee and internally displaced peoples (IDP) camps all over
Liberia.
Until the onset of the Liberia’s 2 nd war in 2001, EFA filled a previously empty niche in the refugee and
humanitarian operations in Liberia by working to safeguard biodiversity and important environmental
resources such as wood, water and productive agriculture land.
EFA’s primary objective was to ensure that refugees, IDPs and the communities that host the camps
were aware of the importance of the factoring environmental considerations in the reconstruction of
their communities and their social and economic livelihoods, after more than a decade of conflict.
By early 2002, EFA could not continue its work in Liberia due to escalation of the conflict, and relocated
back to Sierra Leone, where the organization continued to serve at the UNHCR implementing partner, to
address the environmental aspects of their refugee operations in Sierra Leone. At the height of Liberia’s
2 nd war, Sierra Leone was hosting more than 100,000 Liberian refugees in 8 refugee camps, in Bo,
Kenema, Moyamba and Pujehun Districts. This was in addition to managing returnee and IDP camps
over 7 districts in Sierra Leone, including all of the above four plus, Kailahun, Kono, Kambia and
Port Loko districts. EFA continued to serve in these camps, as UNHCR’s partner until 2005, when all of
the camps were closed.