A two day forum on National Level Coordination and Advocacy was convened on July 17, 2019 by National Union of Community Forest Management Body (NUCFMB) with prominent forest stakeholders to brainstorm on challenges in that vital sector of the Liberian economy.
The NLCA forum, funded by the United States Agency for International Development through USAID Liberia Accountability and Voice Initiative (LAVI) project, brought together prominent lawyers, lawmakers and forest managers.
The two day event, held at a resort in Paynesville, highlighted challenges such as non-payment of cubic meter fees and social responsibility funds to the leaderships of the affected forest communities in the country.
At the end of the brainstorming session, the forest stakeholders drafted and scrutinized a resolution and presented the document to Attorney Gertrude W.K. Nyaley, Technical Manager of Community Forestry Department of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA).
Besides, brainstorming on the challenges and constraints, Cllr. T. Negbalee Warner of Heritage Partners and Associates, Atty. Nyaley and Representative Vicent Willie made presentations that highlighted some serious challenges in the forest sector of the country.
Earlier during the one of the sessions of the discussions on the challenges encountered in the forest sector of Liberia, the president of the National Union of Community Forest Management Body, Paye Thompson, called on the Liberian government to take concrete steps to address the challenges confronting the forest sector especially with concession companies.
Thompson reminded the gathering that community dwellers in the affected areas, especially regarding concessions, should be encouraged to be prime custodians of the forest resources in order to ensure that the desired results have impacted in their lives.
He also called on state actors in the forest sector to see and consider residents in forest affected communities as critical stakeholders in the governance processes of the forest management initiatives in the country.
Mr. Thompson also underscored the need for constant and continuous coordination in order to ensure that overlapping and duplication functions are minimized and that development, growth and progress are achieved.
A seven-count resolution presented to the Liberian Government through the FDA during the program stated that the NUCFMB was formed in 2015 to represent Community Forest Management Bodies at the national level to champion member interests in order to get access and benefits of forest resources and conduct public awareness.
The resolution also noted that CFMBs are legal entities created under the Community Rights Law to advocate and the interests and benefits of local communities in guiding the process of sustainable forest management and benefits accruing to communities through conservation and concession companies as well as exploration of forest resources.
Moreover, both the NUCFMBs and CFMBs have undertaken to carry out these mandates and have succeeded in the consummation of forty (40) Community Forest Management Agreements between local communities and the Government of Liberia represented by the FDA.
In addition, for the sustainable benefit of local communities and to enhance their participation in decisions affecting their lives, both NUCFMBs and CFMBs, in collaboration with Civil Society Organizations, have drafted Commercial Use Contracts to transform the review process of Third Party Agreements.
In spite of these splendid achievements and existing agreements, the resolution noted that local communities continue to experience challenges in the areas of cubic meter and land rental fee payments which have hampered community access to social development.
The NUCFMBs resolution pointed out such non-access to the social development funds has hampered the building of schools and clinics in the forest affected communities in the country.
The resolution further intimated that lack of coordination meetings with concession holders have also given rise to limited local participation in decision making.
Besides, the resolution stated that lack of conservation plans, limiting forest sustainability, concessionaires failed to respect social responsibility agreements with impunity.
The resolution also cited lawmakers’ and other local authorities’ interference in community forest management issues contrary to law and issues of boundary delimitation among communities stemming from government failure to properly demarcate concession areas.
In an earlier statement, Cllr. Negbalee Warner reminded the gathering that the issues of the Community Rights Law and Land Rights Act have no conflicting issues and the Land Right Act has superseded all rights governing land issues in the country.
Atty. Nyaley thanked the NUCFMBs leadership for the resolution and stressed the need for all technicians and experts assigned in the line ministries and agencies to come together and brainstorm and find practical solutions to all land and forest issues in the country.
She assured the forest stakeholders and advocacy groups in Liberia that the resolution will be presented to relevant authorities at the FDA for further review and consideration.