Atty. Kofi Woods warns forest stakeholders
Attorney Samuel Kofi Woods, II of the Law Society of Liberia, says Liberians have failed to realize that abuse of our forest is an abuse against human civilization and a threat to the environment.
Atty. Woods made the statement on Friday, October 19, in Monrovia at the formal launch of a strategy of the NGO Coalition on Forest Governance in Liberia.
He expressed concern about the reported unabated loss of forests in the country to illegal logging, which he said has become common and may increase because of the frequency Liberians are experiencing.
Atty. Woods also expressed fear that the situation may increase related disasters, with severe negative impact on the environment and with adverse repercussions for the economy.
He said that researchers and forest advocates have warned that Liberians should not sit reluctantly and wait for the government to take action to reverse the situation or else the forest will be depleted.
He henceforth called on every Liberian to begin creating an environmentally conscious culture through research, education and people-centered grassroots initiatives, such as environmental restoration, ecosystem rehabilitation and planting trees campaign in every community.
Woods described forests as of vital importance for the livelihood of millions of West Africans and that they provide key ecosystem services of local and global importance.
On a more global context, he said that the Liberia-upper Guinea forests, which are about 43 to 45 percent of sub-Saharan forest, are exceptionally diverse, with very high endemic rates, adding: “Liberia holds some of the last remaining, intact forests in West Africa, and reducing deforestation quickly and efficiently would be important in global climate change mitigation.”
On the ownership of logging companies, Woods expressed shock because, according to him, the ownership of logging companies by government officials, such as the Carbon Credit imbroglio, and other forms of criminal forage is a bane of resource development and advancement in the country.
“The bleeding of our forests must come to an end, and I know this is a cliché; but our natural resources must cease being a curse; it must be a blessing,” Atty. Woods warned.
The human rights lawyer reminded the NGO Coalition members that the strategy being employed should offer the Liberian society the supply chain and the international community (demand chain) redemption from years of pillage, plunder and callous disregard for communities, environment, and the Liberian forest.
“Our unique species of wildlife, flora, and fauna are being destroyed and it is now time to act for the good of posterity,” Atty. Woods stressed.
He also said that the nation must understand that this strategy is geared towards helping its citizens to appreciate the connectivity between human survival, use of the forests and the environment in general as well as overall impact on climate change and weather patterns.
Atty. Woods reminded the gathering that for many years, communities have remained hapless as they faced deprivations associated with conditions imposed on them by the exploitative nature of forest mismanagement.
This has been due to the government’s insatiable quest for rent and at times complicity of some community leaders on the one hand, and the excessive greed of some concessionaires on the other.
Atty. Woods also said that whether it is through the looting of the 1990s during the country civil war, corruption or the Private Use Permits, the complicity of government officials and the onslaught of greedy individuals on the forests have become a proverbial resource curse that stares the country in the face.
He reminded members of the NGO Coalition that their strategy must seek to ensure that people, particularly those who are most vulnerable, will be in a position where their voices will be heard on issues of importance.
He, however, said such rights-based approach will require an advocacy that identifies, assesses and uses evidenced-based research findings to inform, educate and influence policy-makers.