A lead civil society actor, NGO Coalition of Liberia, has urged the government to institute an investigation into the alleged illegal logging of Delta Timber Company’s (DTC) consistent with its noncompliance to the social agreement in Sinoe County.
At a press stakeout with reporters earlier this month, at the NGO Coalition of Liberia’s head office in Duazohn, Margibi County, National Facilitator Richard Hoff, II said the investigation is necessary in order to support continuous efforts by international partners and NGOs to protect the country’s forests from destruction.
Hoff said the Volunteer to Support Efforts in Developing Africa (VOSIEDA), a member of the NGO Coalition, wrote a letter to authorities of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) in June, 2018, prior to the National Multi-stakeholders Monitoring Meeting.
Shortly after that, Mr. Hoff said the FDA held a meeting with VOSIEDA on September 11, 2018, and agreed to invite Delta Timber Company to discuss the matter, but VOSIEDA’s letter to the FDA and follow-ups did not yield any formal response, which was meant for the FDA to address the issue.
In May 2016, Mr. Hoff recalled that the Numopoh Community through its Community Forest Management Body (CFMB) entered into a contract with DTC through the FDA for the sustainable management and use of its forest resources in line with the country’s forestry law.
Since 2017, Mr. Hoff said, VOSIEDA, a member of the NGO Coalition has received multiple complaints of violations ranging from illegal logging (outside of contract area), noncompliance with the contract agreement and bad labor practices.
He said the company continues to harvest logs as recent as Monday, January 21, 2019, which was resisted by community residents who said they would not allow DTC to harvest any timber from the community forest.
Hoff also quoted the community residents as saying that they have threatened legal action against Delta Timber Company for the level of damage it has caused them.
He claimed that there is no evidence that DTC has implemented a single section of the social agreement and other royalties, which state among others, that the company would build a clinic, provide scholarships, hire community members and pays land rental and cubic meter fees.
“We are also aware that the Numopoh Community has informed the FDA through a written communication on these violations, but the FDA is yet to act, even though it has been contacted on the matter since June, 2018,” Mr. Hoff said.
The group has meanwhile called on the government to call on DTC to halt all logging activities in the Numopoh Community until plights of the residents are addressed.
Mr. Hoff noted that his group and other civil society partners implore the Government of Liberia to remain committed and ensure accountability and transparency within the forestry sector which brings immense benefits and immeasurable impact to communities.
Jerry G. Yonmah, Technical Manager for Commercial Forestry at the FDA, rejected the claims that the Authority received formal complaints from community dwellers on DTC’s operations in those communities.
Yonmah said the report received from that Delta Timber Company by the Forestry Development Authority is the ongoing construction of a road that leads to the concession area in Nimopoh Community in Sinoe County.
He said such land rental fees are not paid to the FDA but to the Liberia Revenue Authority and also cubic meter fees are paid in the community account.
He also said on a periodic basis multi-stakeholder meetings are held at the official forum where challenges and problems are raised for appropriate action and therefore NGOs should take advantage of such interactions to flag their concerns.
On the alleged bad labor practices at the DTC, Yonmah said the issue of such a practice is not the responsibility of the FDA, and should be directed to the Ministry of Labor.
He further said that a letter has been sent to DTC General Manager, Gabriel Doe, for a conference in relations t some of the issues raised by the NGO Coalition and VOSIEDA.