Forestry Development Authority Managing Director, Harrison Karnwea has emphatically assured critics that the recently signed agreement between the FDA and Norway in which that European country provided US$150 million for the forest sector is to directly benefit Liberia.
In an interview with the Daily Observer yesterday, Mr. Karnwea said Norway will not benefit in any way from Liberia’s forests, but its intention is to help the country implement protocols signed with other partners.
He said the letter of intent signed between the Government of Liberia and Norway in New York on September 23 is about the reduction of greenhouse gas emission, deforestation and degradation and developing Liberia’s agriculture sector.
Greenhouse gas emission is the release of smoke that results from heat in industrial areas. At the local level, cutting down and burning the forest releases similar gas and encourages deforestation and degradation.
He recalled that Liberia as signatory to several protocols including Kyoto and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has been working over the years and has come out with the forest reform law since 2006.
The FDA Managing Director said Norway provided the money to help Liberia comply with the many protocols it has signed.
He named capacity building of FDA staff and university students, training of forest rangers, improvement of the agriculture sector and direct payment for community conservation as some of the areas for which the money is intended.
He said all forests set aside as protected areas, including those that FDA is working on with stakeholders, require funding as communities near the forest make their livelihood on it.
“We need to discuss alternative livelihoods with members of the communities who live on the forest, and that also requires funding,” he noted.
In addition to the mentioned areas of spending, Mr. Karnwea said, “We need to have logistics to train rangers to be in the forest, have communication and these cannot be made available without money. So this money from the Norwegians will be used to build the capacity of the FDA and other related institutions including the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Mines & Energy, Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Service (LIGIS) and the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA).
He said this is in preparation for 2020 when the world will be paying forest countries for their carbon credit.
Though the agreement did not call for halting logging activities in the forest except for protected areas, the legal reform and law enforcement part of the agreement calls for immediate actions including moratorium on the award of new industrial logging concessions, moratorium on all commercial activity of existing, suspected illegal concessions until satisfactory investigation has taken place, and enforcement of moratorium on companies that hold illegal Private Use Permits (PUPs), in accordance with Executive Order No. 44 (January 2013).
Furthermore, the legal reform and law enforcement according to the agreement calls for suspension of government officials and private sector representatives suspected of breaking the law.
In the agreement, some major priorities underscored in the 2015-2020 period include substantially increase capacity for all stakeholders, with particular focus on strengthening the FDA’s GIS unit, LISGIS, the FDA’s Community Department, and communities and the civil society groups.
It also adds that implementation and enforcement of forest related laws and regulations will be established along with clear semi-annual benchmarks.
Meanwhile, Managing Director Karnwea clarified that before discussing and reaching a consensus to provide the US$150 million, background investigation was done about him to know he will not misapply this fund.
He said with the level of trust built in him, he cannot taint his integrity by accepting bribes to work in the interest of a group to the detriment of the country, calling on those speculating that he may have certain percentage in the money to dismiss such speculations.
He stressed that he went into the agreement because he believes that it will help Liberia to be saved from natural disaster and other environmental effects as far as climate change is concerned.
Mr. Karnwea noted that if Liberia works well in line with the agreement it will be a beneficiary of the funds and the carbon credit payment in 2020.
He also said the benefit of Liberia’s compliance will positively affect Liberian students in terms of scholarships, farmers and other community dwellers, the Environmental Protection Agency, amongst others.