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Project February 26, 2020

On Hallowed Ground: Conserving the Sacred Forests of West Africa

This reporting and photography will share stories of how communities in Senegal, Liberia, and Guinea Bissau have revered and designated sacred forests for generations. The reporters on this project will explore the value placed on sacred forests and how it differs from the value placed on commercial logging areas in Guinea Bissau, Senegal, and Liberia. This includes stories that focus on how sacred spaces are protected by the people who see these forests as intricately linked with their own identity. With Norway paying Liberia $150 million to protect their forests, the 2018 massacre of 14 loggers in Senegal, and Guinea Bissau's moratorium on logging expiring in 2020, each country provides insight into the future of conservation.

Liberia holds 40 percent of West Africa's Upper Guinean rainforest, and Guinea-Bissau houses the densest forest areas in West Africa. The reporters want to explore the role that local techniques for preserving forests have played in conserving these areas - and what others outside of West Africa might learn from these communities. The focus will be on women's roles in Senegal, as well as scientific soil discoveries of "African Dark Earth" in Liberia.

In addition to publishing in U.S. and U.K. press, West African journalists will publish articles in media in Senegal, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, and Liberia. An essential element of the project will be to reach audiences in the places that are being covered.