Land degradation and the unsustainable management and utilization of natural resources (forest landscape and water) contribute to increased poverty which affects the population, particularly the vulnerable rural poor inhabitants whose livelihoods and economic activities are centred heavily on natural resources, especially land resources [1].

Liberia’s forests constitute by far the largest remaining blocks of the Upper Guinean Forest Ecosystem making them a global hotspot for biodiversity. If managed sustainably, these forests and associated landscapes have the potential to serve as drivers for economic development, ensuring good governance and contributing to poverty alleviation. However, these forests and related landscapes continue to be exposed to numerous natural and anthropogenic threats. According to an analysis conducted in 2013, forests cover two-thirds of Liberia's land surface, of which 44% was considered degraded; followed by agriculture (13% of land surface) and savanna (11%) [1].

Liberia’s National Report on the Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting Program [1] includes land cover change information for the period 2001-2015. During that period, total area of forest decreased by 2,423 km² or 5.25% of the total area of the country, while the total area of grassland decreased by 10 km² or 3.60%. The total area of cropland increased by 2,381 km² or 4.9%. The area of wetland also decreased by 3 km², or 1.05%; and artificial surfaces increased by 64 km² or 35.2%.

Land productivity can indicate the land’s ability to support and sustain life and is useful for identifying land degradation. An analysis of the land cover classes from 2000-2013 showed the total amount of land area declining (4,965 km²), moderately declining (6,743 km²), stressed (12,209 km²), stable (43,025 km²), and increasing (23,118 km²) in Liberia. Forest/tree-covered areas had the greatest net area changed (4153 km²), and amount of area declining (203 km²). Trends in indicators, therefore, show that forest/tree-covered area is the land cover class experiencing degradation the most [1].

In addition to land degradation, Liberia faces several land issues including the displacement of local communities related to government land concessions for logging, mining, and large-scale agriculture; urban poverty; and women’s land rights [2].


The key drivers of land degradation in Liberia can be categorically grouped under three main areas: deforestation, unsustainable agricultural practices, and urbanization [1].

Deforestation is caused by shifting agriculture, chainsaw milling, charcoal production, poor enforcement of regulations governing forest concessions, expansion of commercial agriculture concessions (for example, palm oil), and widespread mining [3].

Unsustainable agricultural practices continue to threaten Liberia’s forest, biodiversity and land. During shifting cultivation, there is a high likelihood of decline in soil organic matter due to the conversion of the natural vegetation.

Infrastructural development, as a result of urbanization, is progressively taking away considerable areas of land from agriculture, forestry, and unused lands with wild vegetation for human development [1].


Key policies and governance approach

The Government of Liberia has adopted several sector specific policies/strategies consistent with the objectives of Sustainable Land Management (SLM). These policies cover the sustainable management of the environment, forest, land and biodiversity conservation as well as climate change, and address the drivers of land degradation including unsustainable land use and agricultural practices, deforestation, urbanization, environmental degradation, climate change, unsustainable water management, among others. These policies include the National Disaster Management Policy; National Environmental Policy; National Policy and Response Strategy on Climate Change; Liberia National Action Program to Combat Desertification; Land Rights Policy; Integrated Water Resources Management Policy; National Adaptation Programme of Action Liberia Agriculture Transformation Agenda; and the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, among others [1].

Additionally, although Liberia is not prone to drought [4], the Government has taken steps to address the issue of potential drought in the country through the development of the National Drought Plan. The overarching vision of the National Drought Plan is the establishment of a comprehensive plan where systems are put in place to regularly assess and monitor the adverse impacts of drought and the effects of actions being employed to mitigate it. The Plan considers the following priority intervention areas with emphasis on the issue of gender integration: (i) Early Warning; (ii) Preparedness and Mitigation; (iii) Response; and (iv) Communication [5].

In 2018, the Land Rights Act was passed in Liberia that enacted the most progressive pro-community land reform law on the continent. The Act formally recognizes and protects customary land tenure and women’s rights to land [2]The Land Rights Act is being implemented by the Liberia Land Authority that was established in 2016 to address land issues in decreasing violent tendency as a means of mitigating conflict for peace and prosperity. The government has established a Gender Unit on Land issues at the Liberia Land Authority which offers a unique opportunity for gender issues on land matters to be amicably addressed considering inclusiveness on community land administration, governance framework, etc. [6]. Yet, the Liberian Land Authority faces various challenges including the need to train staff, develop regulations and identify funding in the implementation of this landmark law [2].



Land and associated natural resources degradation are on the increase in Liberia and are posing serious challenges to national and sector specific efforts to reduce poverty, increase food productivity, tackle climate change and ensure sustainable forest and environmental management, among others [1].

It is widely recognized that the issue of land degradation is a serious and enormous problem that cannot be tackled by governments alone. Consequently, strong technical and financial support from both the government and international partners are required if Liberia is to implement and achieve its Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) targets successfully [1]. So far, there has been limited involvement of the country’s private sector actors, including on technology application and innovative financing options for sustainable land use schemes such as eco-friendly agricultural enterprises.

Sustainable land management efforts need to be mainstreamed into national development plans, to ensure awareness, compliance and enforcement of the sector specific policies/strategies [7].


Initiatives and Development Plans

The Liberia Agricultural Sector Investment Plan (LASIP II) will inform and strategically guide investments in the agricultural sector over the 2018-2022 period. The plan focuses on five components: (i) ensuring food and nutrition security of the Liberian population and strengthening the resilience of vulnerable populations and the livelihoods; (ii) diversifying Liberia’s economy through robust agricultural value chains and a modern industrial policy to increase production, productivity and incomes; (iii) improving research and extension services to support the transformation of agriculture; (iv) managing responsibly and sustainably the unique natural resources of Liberia; and (v) improving governance and institutional capacity to implement programs and projects [8].


Goals and Ambitions

Liberia's Land Degradation Neutrality Target at the national scale is for LDN to be achieved by 2030 as compared to 2015 and an additional 10% of the national landscape be improved (net gain) [1].

The following specific targets to avoid, minimize and reverse land degradation were recommended:

  • Improve land cover/tree cover and land productivity compared to 2015 baseline by 2030.
  • Increase forest cover by 10% by 2030 as compared to 2015.
  • Improve SOC stocks of agricultural land and grasslands by 2030 as compared to 2015.
  • Reduce the rate of top soil loss (soil erosion) by 10% by 2030.
  • Restore about one million hectares of degraded landscapes to managed forest land by 2030.
  • Reduce the conversion of forests and wetlands to other land cover classes by 2030.

[1], [5]

  • Tap into a number of investment programs and initiatives directly related to sustainable land management and land degradation neutrality which are supported by various partners including the UNDP, FAO, EU, IFAD, GEF, GM and ADB and others.
  • Utilize innovative financing such as the climate change adaptation and mitigation financing, drylands fund, incentives for adoption and investment in SLM practices for income generation; financial (eco-tourism, private and community wood lots, carbon trading), and the private sector such as logging, agriculture and mining companies. Public private partnerships and investment by diaspora are also important sources of finance.
  • It is recommended that a coordination mechanism is put in place to ensure better flow of information and coordination of projects and funding for SLM/LDN, which involves stakeholders such as National Drought Initiative and Land Degradation Neutrality Technical Working Group as well as those from academic institutions, government agencies, donor group, NGOs/CSOs and the private sector.
  • Promote mechanisms that enable those who benefit from environmental services to pay for them and also provide economic incentives to encourage farmers and other land users to adopt more SLM / LDN practices and invest in environmentally friendly technologies.
  • Commence the construction of drought mitigation and preparedness infrastructures such as the development of alternative water sources in rural and urban areas, and water storage facilities.
  • Commence public education, awareness, and outreach on drought and its implications on human health and survivability.
  • Ensure the inclusion of women and men, particularly of marginalized socio-economic groups, in decision making processes and in action implementation.