‘Help Save Our Forest’

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24 forest community members from eight forested counties going through Real Time Monitoring ForestLink Technology training.

Facilitators urge participants at a 3-day training in RTM Forest-Link technology in Gbarnga

A facilitator at the ongoing three-day training in Real Time Monitoring (RTM) ForestLink Technology, has urged community-based independent forest monitors to help safeguard the Liberian forests in order for it to accrue benefits to the country and its people.

“As a forest monitor, you need to have an idea of the full map which carries the population of the community, the number of roads rehabilitated/constructed and where other activities are taking place in the concession area”, Facilitator Andrew Zeleman emphasized.

Zeleman told the participants about the 13 most significant components of the newly approved Commercial Use Contract (CUC) for communities that should be observed in entering forest agreement. The 13 components included, right to extract/sell logs, payment and payment terms, local employment and training, road and community infrastructures, requirements before commercial felling, planning, monitoring and implementation. Others are assignment and transfer of contract, damages, enforcement of rules and dispute resolution, sustainability, termination and signatures of parties.

The training opened in Gbarnga, Bong County on Tuesday with a call on the twenty-four participants to see themselves as champions and conveners in forest governance. Day one of the training focused on four topics, including a general introduction to RTM ForestLink system in Africa, Community forest monitoring guide, social agreement, and commercial use contract.

The Participants Rivercess are drawn from eight forest counties, including Grand Gedeh, Nimba, Sinoe, Grand Bassa, Grand Cape Mount, Lofa and Gbarpolu Counties.

Participants were informed of their rights to monitor the forest under the current forest laws, with emphasis on evidence gathering and reporting using the Forest-Link system. During the training, emphasis was placed on FDA’s reluctance to act on information coming from the community to prove alleged crimes committed by companies other players in the forestry sector. But with the RTM technology, the alerts will be evidence-based and real time, which will enhance FDA and other relevant authorities to take immediate action since they too are connected to the platform.

The RTM Forest-Link technology, the facilitator said, will reduce community burdens of traveling to Monrovia with complaints, thereby enhancing effective monitoring and reporting. “You don’t have to come to Monrovia from your villages again. Just stay here and send alerts and the FDA will have access. Your name will not show when you sent alerts, but we will know who sent the information”, Abraham Billy, Program Manager of VISIEDA said.  

During the presentation on the community guide, participants were taught how to plan an investigation, gather information, draft reports and get the findings to a wider audience taking into consideration the five Ws (who, where, what, when and why).  “Before you do an investigation, you should have an idea of what you want to do. If you don’t have an idea of what you want to do, it will be hard to do what you want to do”, CS-IMF Team Leader, Roland Harris told participants.

On the social agreement component of the training, participants were urged to always focus on 7 key areas in the social agreement when monitoring compliance. The 7 key areas include the cover page, name of the area, company and FDA logo, legal reference, technical description (the meets and bounds and area map), purpose and statement of mutual benefits and interest, duties and responsibilities of companies and communities and code of conduct.

At the close of day one, a presentation on the ForestLink mobile application using Collectaur was introduced to participants. Under this application, the ForestLink tool allows local people to send alerts and evidence of illegalities using a smartphone app even in areas with no mobile connectivity. Information collected will be transmitted via satellite, internet or SMS.

The training is organized by the European Union Non-State Actors project: “Strengthening the capacity of non-state actors (NSA) to improve FLEGT-VPA and REDD+ processes in Western Africa” implemented by the Volunteers To Support International Efforts In Developing Africa (VOSIEDA) and Tropenbos International Netherlands, with the Civil Society Independent Forest Monitor (CS-IFM) serving as a lead partner.

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