A day-long dialogue on laws and policies on Forest Governance in the country was launched yesterday in Monrovia with a call to decentralize the program.
Panelists analyzed Community Forestry Management Agreement (CFMA), which was signed in most communities of High Conservation Value Forest in the country. The CFMA seeks to promote community inclusion in forest protection and ensure meeting of national and international requirements on forests.
The dialogue enhanced knowledge on forest laws and policies, and created a momentum for change in the forest sector.
The launch of the dialogue marks this year’s International Day of Forests Celebrations, which is observed worldwide in March each year.
The 2018 theme, Forests and Sustainable Cities, was formulated by the United Nations (UN) as a global celebration of forest that provides a platform to raise awareness of the importance of all types of woodlands and trees, and to celebrate the ways in which they sustain and protect us.
The local theme for this year’s events is “Save Liberia’s Tropical Forest, Save Liberia’s Future.” It was organized by NGO Coalition of Liberia in collaboration with Forest Development Authority (FDA), VOSIEDA (Volunteers to Support International Efforts in Developing Africa), a legally constituted Liberian development nongovernmental organization founded in 2001 and registered in 2003 in Monrovia, and Tropenbos International with funding from the European Union.
The dialogue, according to VOSIEDA’s program coordinator, Abraham Billy, seeks to address several key challenges in the forest sector.
“So it is important for the participants to know that Liberia has approximately 4.5 million hectares of lowland tropical forest that comprises 43 percent of the remaining Upper Guinean forests,” Mr. Billy said.
These forests, Billy said, provide an important source of wealth to Liberia and its people. These include a wealth of non-timber forest products for daily consumption and medical cures, as well as employment and trade.
Billy outlined how approximately 60 percent of original Liberian forests has been allotted to timber and agriculture concessions, while the remaining ones constitute national forest reserves under FDA and/or are owned and managed by local communities.
What is disheartening, according to Billy, is that over the last 15 years (between 2000 and 2018), it is estimated that roughly 25 percent of the country’s forest has been deforested and/or degraded.
He said in 2005, Liberia lost about 6,000 hectares of its 4.5 million lowland forests, but this figure has grown exponentially; in 2010, this almost doubled to 11,000 hectares and in 2015, forest loss reached some 90,000 hectares in one year or almost 2 percent of its dense forests.
This, he said, has harmed the country’s rich biodiversity, thus contributing to climate change and increasing poverty through low farm outputs, noting: “It is estimated that the yield levels of crops produced in the country have dropped.”
Sam Kwenneh, NGO Coalition-Liberia Management Team leader, said the forest sector has the potential to generate substantial environmental, social and economic benefits. To achieve these, he said efficient monitoring of logging operations to reduce widespread corruption and violation of forestry regulations is critical. Thus dialoguing on these laws, policies and/or agreements to improve governance and equitable management of the country’s forests is important.
The event brought together stakeholders and panelists from Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Non-state Actors of NGOs, FDA newly-appointed Deputy Managing Director for Operations, Joseph J. Tally, EU representatives and others from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).