The board chair of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), Mr. Harrison S. Karnwea, says in order to save the forest of Liberia from depletion and avoid the consequences of climate change, Liberia’s international partners who are providing some forms of supports to the nation’s forest sector should continue their support.
“We call on all of our partners to continue to support us until we reach the milestone very soon; we want them to do even a little more. We want to save the forests,” Mr. Karnwea said.
He reminded those partners that the forests make more money while standing than when they are cut down; adding, “This country remains the lung of the sub-region.”
Liberia alone possesses about 40 percent of the remaining Upper Guinea Forest south of the Sahara and the Sahel Savanna.
Mr. Karnwea along with others spoke last Thursday, November 26, at the close of a three-day Liberia-European Union Voluntary Partnership Agreement on Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT). It was the eighth sitting of the Joint Implementation Committee (JIC), with the aim to promote sustainable forest governance through partnership.
Speaking further, the FDA Board Chair emphasized that Liberia’s mode of farming, which is slashing and burning of the forest and shifting cultivation every farming season, is reducing the forests drastically.
“In order to stop this, we have got to do some sustainable farming practices and they are very expensive: If you go to Grand Gedeh or River Gee and you want to clear a swamp to lay it out for rice [planting], you will need a front-dozer,” he stated.
He told the Europeans who were some of the major partners attending the meeting, that Liberia’s partners invest US$20 million in forest conservation activities to save the forests, but can’t afford to get the nation one front-dozer, “It becomes problematic.”
“Then the question is, where does the money go? US$20M. How can we buy two or three bulldozers to clear the swamps and make it possible for the people to have stationary farming instead of cutting the forests here, there and yonder?”
He also reminded his audience that “Community Forest Management” has now become the new legal way of jumping into the forests. He emphasized that if they at FDA and partners don’t want those communities to contract the forests to commercial loggers, “We need to support those communities so that they do sustainable business themselves.”
He stressed that the challenge was theirs as partners to support Liberia’s forest sector so as to stop the rate at which the forest is being consumed.
He used the occasion to call for concerted efforts on how to make the soil more productive so as to reduce the rate at which farmers cut down the forests to make farms.
Also speaking, Ambassador Laurent Delahousse, Head of Delegation of the European Union in Liberia, thanked every participant for the “Spirit of commitment that had been shown” over the three-day period and towards the process.
“You have set a new timeline; you have committed to new deadlines, objectives: it’s not 100 percent, obviously, but nothing is 100 percent,” Amb. Delahousse said.
“I want to salute the spirit in which all members participated today and to say how the EU and the UK are committed to supporting all stakeholders in Liberia to both develop and implement sustainable forestry practices and to save the forest,” the EU Head of Delegation said.
He reminded Liberians that they still have most of the beautiful West African forests that most of their neighbors have not been “So careful” to protect.
“You are blessed in Liberia with bio-nature; let us all together respect this nature. Let us work to benefit from its fruits, but let’s do it in a way that ensures our children, our grandchildren and after them, more future generations will also benefit from it,” Amb. Delahousse stated.
At the end of the 8th JIC, which convened at a local hotel in Monrovia, the EU and Liberia agreed that key decisions and action points from the meeting would be reviewed, documented, and signed during the Formal Session. Liberia and the EU further agreed that due to the density of JIC discussions at the 8th JIC, the full Aide Memoire documenting the meeting would undergo a more detailed review and be signed by both parties within seven days of the meeting. During the official opening, “The EU and Liberia agreed that there is a need to further accelerate Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) implementation and improve Liberia’s global competitiveness by sustainably managing the forest. The parties agreed that the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID 19) is something the world must live with and therefore it is not an excuse to delay the implementation of the VPA.