Concerns are said to be mounting over the depletion of the Gio National Forest due to persistent farming activities within the reserve, despite the strict rules banning people from farming in it. The Gio National Forest is situated in the Tappita Statutory District, with Doe Clan, Boe and Quillah and Kparblee Administrative Districts surrounding it.
In a consultative meeting held in Graie Township last week by the Community Forest Management Body (CFMB) trained to the manage the forest, local authorities within that vicinity of the forest zone were told that if nothing is done now, the national reserve will be completely depleted by farmers.
The CFMB said farming activity within the forest is at an alarming rate and people were planting cash crops while carrying on subsistence farming at the same time.
They said all efforts have been applied to stop farming activities in the forest, but to no avail. Some have accused both Senator Thomas Grupee and Representative Dorwoan Gleekia of backing the farmers. Gleekia is the Representative of Nimba County Electoral District 6, where Grupee, a Senator of Nimba, also hails from.
Senator Grupee did not respond to inquiries by this reporter on the matter, in spite of numerous attempts to reach him.
The CFMB told the gathering that during one of their meetings held in Toweh Town on February 13, 2017, Senator Thomas Grupee told them to leave the farmers, since the farming season was already going on.
“Since the 2017 meeting, farming activities within the forest have blown up, where farmers are invading the forest from all angles based on the statement made by Senator Grupee,” said one Ojuku.
Similarly, the CFMB accused Representative Gleekia of blocking their actions against the farmers, making the farmers to have no respect for the body, something Rep. Dorwoan Gleekia denied, saying that he only advised the body to sue anyone caught illegally farming in the forest.
“I only challenged the body that is managing the forest to take all the violators to court, rather that fining them, as it was once done by the statutory superintendent,” he said. “The law says whenever someone breaks it, they should be sent to court.”
Representative Gleekia said he does not have any interest in the forest, but his interest is that of his people.
The portion of the forest around the Kpablee District is also being invaded by the farmers. It is where most of the Burkinabé nationals who illegally entered the country from the Ivory Coast, are trying to occupy to carry on farming.
In one Burkinabé saga in Kparblee, Representative Gleekia was also accused of interfering in the case, but he said his intervention was not to stop the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) from doing its work but was inquiring from the LIS to first of all establish whether the Burkinabé entered the country legally.
He defended that the ECOWAS protocol allows any ECOWAS citizens to work in any of the ECOWAS countries. Therefore, he said if they entered legally, then, they have the right to work but not to own land.
“If anybody works for you, you should be able to pay the person, but not to share portion of the land with that person,” he said.
Effort to get Senator Grupee could not materialize, as he was said to be in the United States of America since the outbreak of COVID-19.
However, this reporter left a question for him via Facebook Messenger concerning the allegation, to which he is yet to respond.
Meanwhile, two of the local leaders at the meeting in Graie Township, Commissioner Anita Diagor and Acting Tappita Statutory Superintendent Loubayee Barlea, have expressed concern over the status of the forest, but advised that both Senator Grupee and Rep. Gleekia should be invited to acquaint them with the prevailing situation in the forest.