Norway and Liberia – an unlikely couple

The link between trees and the Ebola virus

If you are a regular reader of my thoughts on trees, paper and printing you might well feel that I am wandering off course in this article, because here I want to write about Liberia. For although Liberia has a lot of trees they are not trees that are used for paper production.

However, given that we have talked about trees before (albeit in relation to paper and paper storage – which is what Admiral Document Storage does) I want to stretch a point this time simply because I was heartened when I read this story.

For it appears that Norway will give Liberia over £90m over the next six years if Liberia can stamp out illegal logging.

Now Norway, like Liberia, as you may know, has quite a few trees. Not as many as Finland, but still quite a few. So it has an interest in tree management and tree development, which is good because proper management of trees reduces greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

But there is more to this story than reducing greenhouse gases. For there is a thought emerging that the Ebola virus might be driven by illegal logging. It is speculated that deforestation in the Liberian rainforests disturbed Ebola-infected fruit bats which then headed into human populated areas, and thus initiated the outbreak.

And at this moment it is particularly important that we know all about Ebola, because the latest estimate is that at the current rate the virus will kill well over one million people by January 2015.

Now the reports of this development are anecdotal so far, but there is a further indication of the link between deforestation and Ebola. The regions in which Ebola has taken hold have had a prolonged exceptionally dry decade, which is again thought to have stimulated the Ebola virus.

Liberia doesn’t have a particularly stable recent past – which is why it has been hard to stop illegal deforestation. But it does have the largest rainforest in West Africa, and it has accepted the need for a sustainable development programme. The finance from Norway gives the chance for the Liberian government to put its programme into operation.

Speaking on this subject Silas Siakor, a Liberian environmental activist involved in the negotiations, said, “This partnership holds promise not only for the forest and climate; but for forest communities that have been marginalised for generations. The partnership’s commitment to respecting and protecting communities’ rights with respect to forests, is laudable.”

The letter of intent signed by both countries suggests that they will work together to “contribute to sustainable development in Liberia through protecting natural forests, restoring degraded lands, and developing Liberia’s agricultural sector through enhancing sustainable agricultural management, and greening supply chains.”

Patrick Alley, director of Global Witness, was particularly pleased with the news of this unique agreement, noting that, “For decades Liberia’s forests have been more of a curse than a blessing. Timber revenues funded Charles Taylor’s regime during Liberia’s brutal civil war. Since then the experiment to generate economic development through industrial scale logging has failed, with logging companies routinely logging illegally, skirting taxes, and causing huge damage to forests and forest communities.

“If Liberia delivers on this promise it could help spur the country’s economy and set development on a sustainable path at such a difficult time.”

On the Norwegian side Jens Frølich Holte, a political adviser to the Norwegian ministry of climate and environment, said, “The negotiations on the partnership we launched today have been ongoing since long before the Ebola crisis. “Of course, dealing with the crisis has to be the top priority.”

Like I say, this isn’t a story about paper and document storage. It is in fact about all of us.

But as always, if you have documents to store in the West Midlands then please do take a look at our website – or call us on 0800 810 1125.