The Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) Harrison S. Karnwea Sr. has clarified that the partnership agreement signed by the Government of Liberia and the Kingdom of Norway in September 2014 is in no way intended to stop commercial logging.
He was however quick to point out that as part of the agreement and consistent with the law, concession contracts awarded by the Government through the FDA would be reviewed to ensure that they are in compliance with the law.
Addressing several county and local leaders, FDA field staff and community members, elders, traditional leaders, women and youth representatives as well as civil society during the initial regional awareness and outreach campaign on the Letter of intent signed by the two parties recently, the FDA boss emphasized that forest concession contracts are legally binding and can only be terminated in full respect of the law.
Director Karnwea explained that the Letter of Intent provides for Norway to give financial assistance to Liberia to harness the potential of its forests, to reduce poverty through sustainable management, integrate the forests into sustainable economic and infrastructural development and protect the vital local and global environmental ecosystem services and values of the forests.
Based on an integrated package of key investments, technical assistance, capacity building activities not only in the forestry sector but also in the Agriculture sector, will improve the performance of national institutions, civil society, private sector and communities to make the forest sector vibrant and sustainable.
The FDA boss explained that the financial assistance from Norway will be paid in two amounts beginning with the first US$70 million out of which US$15 million will go to the Government of Liberia as budgetary support at the rate of US five million dollars annually.
The remaining US$55 million, he disclosed, would be used for capacity building in the FDA, Ministry of Agriculture and other related government institutions as well as for trial payments to communities that will choose to conserve their forests based on the quantity of carbon produced.
He further revealed that the test payment phase under the second installment in the amount of US$80 million will be used to pay communities that will choose to conserve their forest to help mitigate green house gas emissions and contribute to the mitigation of climate change.
The FDA boss accompanied by an integrated team comprising the FDA, the Environmental Protection agency, the REDD+ Implementation Unit and civil society groups held awareness deliberations in Foya, Voinjama and Konia in Lofa County, Sanniquellie in Nimba County, Zwedru in Grand Gedeh County as well as Yarpah Town in Rivercess, Buchanan in Grand Bassa and Tubmanburg in Bomi County.
For their part, the participants in the interactive meetings welcomed the agreement between Norway and Liberia and called for massive and adequate awareness in forest communities across Liberia and the full participation of those communities to ensure maximum and direct benefits for forest dependent communities.
They said that they were cautiously optimistic based on past experiences where social agreements were signed with companies and those agreements were never actualized.
The participants also underscored the need for money owed some communities from taxes paid by companies to be remitted to those communities by government.
Commenting on the promised assistance to farmers to improve agricultural productivity, the participants welcomed such help but stressed the need for assistance to promote cash crops as a sure way to lift forest dependent communities from poverty by providing them an alternative livelihood.
They welcomed the pronouncement by the FDA that the negotiations and signing of forest concession agreements will now be left to the communities unlike in the past when the FDA played that role.