There are 122 communities directly adjacent to the Gola Rainforest National Park, also referred to as Forest Edge Communities. The park sits within 7 chiefdoms comprising a total population of approximately 140,000. The dominant tribe in the area is Mende, which has its own distinct language and culture.

All Forest Edge Communities describe themselves as poor and the vast majority lack basic amenities and services such as latrines, clean water supply, healthcare and education. The majority of forest edge communities are quite remote and located at some distance from motorable roads making market access difficult and restricting economic opportunity. For 90% of the population in forest edge communities, subsistence agriculture forms the basis for their livelihoods (Bulte et al. 2013). For more information about Forest Edge Communities, click here.

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The park is working with local communities continuously so those living on the edge of the forest can benefit from its conservation and sustainable management. This close collaboration is the key to the future sustainability of the park; the management of Gola Rainforest National Park is focusing not only on biodiversity conservation, but also sustainable management and working to improve local livelihoods. See Our work for further information.


Right of use

In Sierra Leone, forests reserves are created through negotiations with local authorities and subsequent proclamation in the national gazette. The creation of a forest reserves invests the government with the right of use to that area for production or protection objectives (see Forestry Act 1988, Wildlife Act 1972). The Ministry of Agriculture, Forests and Food Security is mandated with the management and protection of the country’s forest resources. The creation of the Gola Forest Reserves therefore invested the government (and specifically the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security) with the right of use to the project area, this was further cemented when the forest reserves were upgraded to National Park status.

Carbon rights

The Government of Sierra Leone are legislated with the management of the forest resources in the National Park, and thus own the carbon rights within the Gola REDD project area (Climate Focus, 2011). However, during the creation of the reserves and their subsequent upgrade to National Park status carbon rights were not explicitly mentioned. In order for the Government of Sierra Leone to secure full ownership of carbon rights for the project area for the duration of the Gola REDD project, the Government entered into agreements with each representative of landowning families claiming customary tenure inside the Gola REDD project area. Each family has agreed to exchange any outstanding rights (including carbon rights) to the project area in exchange for a yearly payment agreed through the Benefit Sharing Agreement, as a result of these agreements the Government of Sierra Leone (and specifically the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security) has full ownership of all carbon rights to the project area (Forestry Division 2013).