The National Project Coordinator of Reducing Emissions of Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), Saah David, said the agency has begun the first phase of its awareness campaign in 12 of Liberia’s 15 counties.
In an interview with the Daily Observer over the weekend, Mr. David said counties targeted are Bomi, Gbarpolu, Grand Cape Mount, Lofa, Montserrado, and Nimba.
Other counties are, Grand Gedeh, Grand Kru, Sinoe, Margibi, River Cess, and River Gee.
He revealed that the Government of Norway has provided US$37.5 million through the World Bank for the exercise, while the Liberian government has provided office space, equipment, electricity and computers.
“We, however, call on our government to step up more assistance to the REDD+ initiative in order for us to sustainably manage our forest biodiversity for future generations,” Mr. David said.
He said some of the funds will be used for capacity building and strengthening institutions that work along with the agency.
Other areas of concentration are infrastructure improvement, regulatory and institutional arrangements for the implementation of REDD’s programs in the country, he added.
On why Montserrado and Margibi counties were targeted by the REDD+ project, Mr. David stated that owing to the fact that the majority of Montserrado residents use charcoal for energy (reportedly 90%), it is necessary that the county be added to the program and Margibi County also has a sizeable forest area especially around the Gibi Mountain.
He said to date, since the REDD+ project negotiations were hosted in New York and a Letter of Intent was signed between the Liberian government and Government of Norway, some progress has been made regarding implementation.
Mr. David noted that at the moment ten (10) communities in some of the targeted counties have started to receive direct benefits from the REDD+ project.
Asked about the restrictions on commercial logging, Mr. David dismissed reports about the cessation of logging activities in Liberia due to the REDD+ implementation project.
Mr. David said the forest sector has three vital components namely: conservation, commercial and community.
One of the objectives of the REDD+ project in Liberia is to equip the commercial component of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) to enhance the sustainable management of the remaining rainforest in the country, he said.
He gave the project’s lifespan as May 30, 2016 to June 20, 2020.
On concerns raised by charcoal producers, Mr. David said in the REDD+ project, there is room for the use of degraded lands to plant fast growing tree species for communities.
“Our project is prepared to assist forest dwellers to turn to alternative means of livelihood instead of the massive depletion of our remaining rainforest areas for charcoal,” Mr. David said.
He said the REDD+ team has divided the country into five regional forest zones and has set up regional offices in the targeted communities for effective supervision and monitoring.
“We have also appointed regional coordinators to supervise all REDD+ activities, including updating us at the FDA headquarters in Monrovia,” Mr. David said.
Meanwhile, Mr. David disclosed that the REDD+ project implementation is also linked with some inter-agency and line ministries of the government, including: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Liberia Land Authority (LLA), universities, colleges, community organizations, civil society organizations and farmers.
Others are researchers, Ministries of Lands, Mines and Energy, and Agriculture, Forestry Development Authority and Liberia Institute of Statistics and GeoInformation Service.