The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) recently signed an agreement valued at over US$80,000 with the National Union of Community Forestry Development Committees (NUCFDC) in Monrovia, to help strengthen the capacity of communities to effectively monitor the benefits from commercial logging in the country.
The agreement is under the framework of the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance, and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) signed by the Government of Liberia (GoL) and the European Union (EU) in 2009.
VPA is a legally binding bilateral trade agreement between the EU and timber-producing countries outside the EU, such as Liberia. The purpose of a VPA is to ensure that timber and timber products exported to the EU come from legal sources. The agreement also helps timber-exporting countries to stop illegal logging by improving regulation and governance of the forest sector.
With funding from the EU, Swedish Cooperation (SIDA), UK Government (UKAid) and through the FAO EU-FLEGT Program, the agreement seeks to equip affected communities with skills and tools to be able to monitor the benefits they receive through logging, to communicate and share information on the progress and robustly defend their rights under the VPA Legality Assurance System (LAS), a release said.
Specifically, the agreement is geared towards helping communities acquire skills through a combination of training and peer-mentoring in financial and project management. It will also provide them with tools and protocols for effectively monitoring the enforcement of social agreements and specific skills in community-level forest monitoring. This will enable them to account for the benefits they receive from commercial logging and defend their rights where they are denied.
The 12-month project, titled “Tracking Progress: Strengthening Community Capacity to Monitor Benefits from Commercial Logging in Liberia,” will improve the quality and participatory processes in communities by prioritizing the contribution of women and youth across all activities.
Mr. Andrew Y. Y. Zelemen, National Facilitator for NUCFDC, and Ms. Mariatou Njie, FAO Representative in Liberia, signed the agreement on behalf of their respective institutions.
Mr. Zelemen welcomed the initiative and thanked FAO for addressing the capacity gap in affected communities, enabling them to fulfill their critical role in ensuring that benefit sharing obligations under the VPA are fulfilled accordingly.
He said the new funding from FAO will enhance the capacity of communities to monitor production and manage what they receive from these companies. “It will also strengthen the capacity of Community Forestry Development Committees (CFDCs) in forest monitoring skills, reinforce the engagement and influence of non-state actors, and build synergies with activities supported under these related projects,” he stated.
The FAO Representative in Liberia Ms. Mariatou Njie said FAO is committed to supporting the Government of Liberia (GoL), to improve and strengthen the forestry sector. She said the FAO-EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance, and Trade (FLEGT) Program seeks to reduce and eventually eliminate illegal logging.
The Program works in support of the European Commission’s Action Plan on FLEGT, to promote the legal production and consumption of timber by granting funds to projects and assisting them at all stages from the original design through to the outcome. Decreasing illegal logging contributes to Sustainable Development Goals by alleviating poverty (SDG 1), ensuring food security (SDG 2), mitigating climate change (SDG 13) and managing forests sustainability (SDG 15).