A natural resource expert specialized in the forest sector has noted that though a lot of progress has been made in Liberia’s forest sector, there are still challenges that need to be addressed.
Madam Norah Bowier, Executive Director of the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), informed the Daily Observer through a mobile phone interview that the sector is far ahead of other sectors in terms of reforms, but governance issue remains challenging and needs to be addressed.
According to the SDI Director, while there are good laws on the books about the management of the forests, the implementation of these laws remains a stumbling block due to what she considered as ‘inadequate logistical resources’ confronting the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and the lack of political will from the national government.
She noted further that there are some serious challenges including difficulties in implementing the Forest Law, the lack of political will from the end of the government; poor civil society collaboration and cooperation, and limited gender participation at the community level in terms of more women in key decision-making positions.
According to her, SDI works to transform decision-making processes on natural resource management for shared benefits with the communities.
“SDI aims to create a space for the participation of local communities in decision-making processes on natural resources,” she stated.
“On a larger scale,” she added, “the forest sector has made a lot of progress when compared with other sectors which I think should be emulated by other sectors.
“We still feel that the laws have been weakened or watered down, which has affected revenue generation in the forest sector. The affected forest communities [are] supposed to receive some financial benefits, but have been stalled at the level of the government,” she said.
According to Madam Bowier, the government owes huge arrears for people within different forest communities.
“There are promises by concessionaires that have not been fulfilled because some agreements are not clear. There is a need for serious amendments to these agreements. This has to some extent led to a series of conflicts between concessionaires and the people,” Bowier asserted.
When asked about the role of SDI in bringing about reforms, Bowier stated: “Our engagement has been to provide policy recommendations for reform. We do this by engaging the concession companies as well as the people in forest communities. We have been able to work with different stakeholders in the sector to contribute to policy works.”
“We have also been able to expose ills in the sector and structure communities to engage. We have trained members of forest communities to be knowledgeable of their own roles and responsibilities and to be more independent,” the SDI head added.