A forest management guide intended to ensure the effective management and monitoring of forest resources in the country has been launched in Monrovia. Officially unveiled over the weekend by the National Union Community Forestry Development Committee (NUCFDC), the guide is intended to be used by the Community Forest Development Committee (CFDC), CSOs and other community groups to ensure the implementation of social agreements, and other agreements that forest communities sign with concessionaires.
At the launch of the forest management guide over the weekend, head of secretariat and national facilitator of NUCFDC, Andrew Y.Y. Zelemen, said the instrument is intended to ensure that communities get maximum benefits from their forest resources. The guide was developed with support from the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
According to the FAO, the sustainable management of the forest makes vital contributions both to people and the planet, bolstering livelihoods, providing clean air and water, conserving biodiversity and responding to climate change.
Unfortunately, this has never been the case here in Liberia until recently when stakeholders began making efforts to ensure that the country brings its vast rainforest forest, comprising 42 percent of the Upper Guinea Rainforest, under its grips to ensure that the host communities and the nation at large benefit from their natural resources.
The forest was used in the past to fuel conflict. Illegal mining and hunting activities have since overwhelmed the forest as forest communities wallow in poverty and deprivation, while their natural resources are taken away illegally.
It is against this backdrop that the FAO has been collaborating with major stakeholders in the forest sector to ensure a sustainable management of the nation’s forest resources.
Managing forests sustainably involves optimizing its benefits, including timber and contributions to food security, to meet society’s needs in a way that conserves and maintains forest ecosystems for the benefit of present and future generations, a stakeholder at the launch said.
Despite the significant progress made towards sustainable forest management (SFM) at the global level, the implementation of SFM is highly variable in the tropics such as Liberia, where the capacity to utilize or enforce SFM policies, laws and regulations remains uneven.
Furthermore, other land uses such as agriculture can be financially more attractive in the short-term compared to forest management, motivating deforestation and land-use changes.
But according to Mr. Zelemen, the guide educates communities how to go into an agreement, implementation and how to monitor and report on those agreements. “This guide is going to help local communities to properly manage their forest. It takes into consideration social agreements and whatever documents that community signs with concessionaires.
“Also in the guide, a financial and project management procedure, which is simplified way of how community ought to manage their own forest and how to record their own financial records and report them to their people,” Zelemen revealed.
The guide, he added, was developed based on the CFDC’s own experiences on the field over the years. It was officially launched by the Coordinator of the National Civil Society Coalition, Mr. Richard Hoff, who urged stakeholders in the forestry sector to adhere to the document in a bid to foster the effective management of the forest.
The launch of the document coincided with the climax of FAO-supported project, titled: “Tracking progress: strengthening community capacity to monitor benefits from commercial logging in Liberia.” It was implemented by NUCFDC. The European Union (EU) also supported the initiative through its Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) program, a year-long project, which started May 2018, had several extensions.
The project, valued at US$80,000, was meant to strengthen the capacity of communities to effectively monitor the benefits of commercial logging in Liberia.
The agreement falls under the framework of the FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), signed by the Government of Liberia and the European Union (EU) in 2009. Zelemen noted that the management guide is the highlight of the project.
Mr. Jerry G. Yonmah, Technical Manager of the Commercial Department at the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), lauded the CSO group and its collaborating partners as well as its supporters for the milestone document.
“We are happy and I am here to say a big thank you. We are committed to working with CSOs at all national levels. We can work together to bridge those gaps that impede the proper management of our forest resources,” Yonmah said.