Liberia’s prime custodian of the forest sector, the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), started 2014 under the watchful eyes and ears of local and international advocacy groups, including the UK-based Global Witness.
Global Witness, a leader in forestry, land rights and environmental advocacy, has had great impact on reforms undertaken the Liberian government.
With Liberia possessing the last remaining rain forests in Africa, preservation of this precious natural resource is indeed critical to the overall future of the nation and its people.
However, the notorious Private Use Permits (PUP) in the views of advocacy and pressure groups was indeed counterproductive and overwhelmingly abusive to the forest sector up to 2014.
Correspondingly, the PUP also did spark grave concern amongst the hundreds of community forest dwellers, since many of the logging companies were not living up to their corporate social responsibilities.
As a result, extensive local and international voices sounded alarm and the Liberian Government was left with no other option but to bow to the critical reforms.
The outcry of public and civil society groups also led to the exit of former FDA Managing Director Moses Wogbeh, replaced by businessman Harrison Kanwea in 2014.
The Government of Norway in September 2014 provided the sum of USD150 million dollars for the preservation of Liberia’s virgin forests.
Besides, logging companies, as part of their social corporate responsibilities, should initiate projects such as building schools, clinics and other income generating activities that could provide as some kind of socio-economic empowerment.
But, loggers, under the banner of the Liberia Timber Association (LTA) see the preservation of the Liberian forests as detrimental to genuine business interactions in Liberia.
During the period under review, the LTA leadership also vowed to pursue legal proceedings against the FDA and the Liberian Government for strenuous restrictions on commercial logging in the country.
In a radio interview during the year the Managing Director of the FDA, Mr. Harrison Karnwea, disclosed to Liberians and international partners that the business entity had infused into Liberian Government’s coffers USD 7 million dollars.
In spite of the slow pace of commercial logging in the country, the FDA also generated some money intended to buttress efforts by the Liberian Government to underwrite some of its many obligations for the overall development of the country.
Director Karnwea also reminded the nation that the FDA had initiated several sustained capacity building initiatives for its senior staff and employees in and outside of the country.
The FDA had also rehabilitated some of its regional offices and there are ongoing efforts aimed at expanding and decentralizing projects and programs in the country.
Director Karnwea also pointed out that despite of the enormous challenges and constraints, the forest agency would endeavor to manage the Liberian forest in more transparent, accountable and credible manner for the benefit of all Liberians.
“The sustainable management of Liberia’s God given forest and endangered species remains the primary goal and objective of our moral responsibility to all Liberians in and outside of the country,” Director Karnwea declared.
Meanwhile, the FDA has assured Liberians and support partners in 2015 and beyond that the entity pledges its unflinching determination and readiness to observe and uphold all international protocols in the sustainable management of Liberia’s forest.