The Sustainable and Thriving Environment for West African Regional Development (STEWARD) was an initiative conceptualized by USAID and the US Forest Service to increase collaboration, improve regional natural resource management, promote transfer of knowledge among countries, and initiate transboundary development projects at select sites within the Upper Guinean forest region of West Africa. The Upper Guinean forest includes the countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, and Ghana; this region is a high global priority for biodiversity conservation, and is of strategic importance in terms of peace building, extractive industries, and other key global commodities such as rubber, cocoa and oil palm.
The STEWARD program had three iterations. STEWARD I was characterized as a design phase, STEWARD II as a pilot phase, and STEWARD III was intended to be the implementation phase. Its goals were to:
- Conserve biodiversity and improve rural livelihoods in critical trans-boundary landscapes in the Upper Guinean Forest ecosystem;
- Produce harmonized policies and legal frameworks for natural resources management (NRM) in a regional context; and contribute to national strategic plans on climate change in the Mano River Union states; and
- Promote resiliency in the face of climate change.
STEWARD III was implemented by the US Forest Service’s International Program (USFS-IP), which has a history of excellence in technical assistance to USAID through a Participating Agency Partnership Agreement (PAPA). It is worth noting that prior to STEWARD the USFS-IP had not managed large projects in the developing world.