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Key findings
  • Eight in 10 Liberians (80%) say pollution is a serious problem in their community, including 63% who describe it as “very serious.”
  • Overwhelming majorities say the government is doing a poor job of reducing pollution and protecting the environment (79%) and needs to do more (82%).
  • If environmental-protection policies threaten jobs and incomes, a majority (61%) of Liberians would prioritise environmental protection.
  • About two-thirds (65%) of Liberians say the benefits of natural resource extraction outweigh negative impacts such as pollution.

Though one of the world’s least-developed countries (UNCTAD, 2022), Liberia is rich in natural resources. In addition to iron ore, diamonds, and gold, a major share of the country’s wealth lies in its forests, fourth-largest contributor to the national economy (Nthara & Srivastava, 2020).

But deforestation due to logging, palm-oil plantations, small farms, and other pressures is claiming this wealth at an alarming rate, threatening rural livelihoods and food security and contributing to the global environmental crisis while destroying habitat for some of the world’s rarest wildlife (Insight, 2023; UNDP, 2023).

Initiatives by the government and development partners have sought to protect the forests (UNDP, 2022; FAO, 2023; Christensen, Hartman, & Samii, 2021), but the government has also been implicated in “major failures” to control illegal logging (Davey, 2023).

Other environmental challenges in Liberia include waste management and air and water pollution, representing significant threats to public health and the fisheries and agriculture sectors (UNEP, 2023; Kuukpen, 2023).

This dispatch reports on special survey modules included in the Afrobarometer Round 9 questionnaire to explore Liberians’ experiences and perceptions of pollution, environmental governance, and natural resource extraction.

Findings show that most Liberians consider pollution a serious problem in their communities, rating trash disposal and sanitation as their most important environmental issues and describing plastic bags as a major source of pollution.

A majority of citizens say the government should do “much more” to protect the environment, even at significant economic cost.

And while a majority say the benefits of natural resource extraction outweigh negative impacts such as pollution, most want the government to regulate the industry more tightly to protect the environment.

Margaret Eduonoo

Margaret Eduonoo is a PhD student and graduate teaching assistant in the Department of Political Science, University of Florida.