The Man behind Liberia’s First NGO Dedicated to Environmental Law

An effort to ensure Liberia’s tropical forests remain intact is why Liberian lawyer Alfred Brownell, 53, was among those granted the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize. After the end of Liberia’s civil war in 2003, the government sought to generate much-needed funds for growth through agricultural concessions and logging permits. Brownell had by then established Green Advocates, to look at how powerful palm oil companies were scrambling for rainforests; he sought to help conserve the nation’s majestic natural resource from the companies aiming to clear-cut it all for profit. In 2010, Liberia’s government signed a 65-year concession agreement to develop over 543,000 acres of land with Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL) and affiliates, yet the company was immediately accused of clearing community forests and desecrating burial grounds and sacred sites without notifying residents or adequately compensating them. With his rising profile, Brownell was targeted for his work; for representing community members against the state and he found himself at the center of a national manhunt eventually escaping with his family in mid-December 2016 to the United States. The Upper Guinean Forest is considered one of the world’s most biologically diverse ecosystems, a dense tropical rainforest in West Africa stretching from Sierra Leone to Nigeria.


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