Marsh Award for Terrestrial Conservation Leadership

2011 - Anyaa Vohiri

In 2000 Anyaa left Hawaii, a successful career and a comfortable living situation to return home to her native Liberia because, as she put it: “What the hell am I doing here when my country needs me?” She accepted a dramatic cut in salary, job security and living standards and personal security, returning to help civil war-ridden Liberia put order into its environmental and forest management.

Whilst with the National Environmental Commission of Liberia (2001), she was the primary author of the country’s two framework environmental laws: the Environmental Protection and Management Act and the Environmental Protection Agency Act. Both were a decade before their time, given the difficult prevailing circumstances in Liberia including then President Taylor’s increasing dependence on logging revenues to support his style of government. Yet these laws set out a vision for the country to work towards when times improve.

In mid-2002, Anyaa took on the position of Country Director for FFI’s Liberia programs. She set up and managed an office that served as a safe haven for environmental managers, foresters, conservationists and researchers from within and outside the Liberian Government who could work on useful initiatives, improve their skills and lay the environmental groundwork for when times improve.

During the crisis in Monrovia in mid-2003, Anyaa arranged to open the FFI office to provide shelter and support to FFI staff and families, staff and families of FFI’s Governmental partners and other environmentalists and neighbours. During the months of fighting, she and other supporters of Liberia supported hundreds of people with basic needs (money, food, clothing, shelter). It was an important sign that the bond between environmentalists went deeper than professional relations. They shared a profound personal and moral bond, and in times of need they did not abandon one another.

Following the crisis, when the Transitional Government took power, Anyaa and the then-Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority coined the approach “balancing the three C’s of Liberian forestry: community, commercial, conservation.” This simple, catchy phrase was the marketing tool that allowed FFI to mobilise millions in support of rebuilding forest management in Liberia.

As FFI-Liberia matured and its funding changed, Anyaa left to pursue her furniture business. She remained a constant advisor on all environmental matters. When the post of Managing Director of the Liberian EPA became vacant, Anyaa couldn’t resist building up the institution she helped to create.


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