A non-governmental organization called National Coalition of Liberia (NCL) has elevated its strategic plan dialogue towards accountability, competence and transparency as a new management assumes office.
NCL is a conglomeration of local NGOs that are working with a similar vision geared towards elevating the livelihood of people in poverty and creating a level playing field between government, concession companies and locals.
In an effort to ensure that its objectives are realized, the NCL held a five-day retreat, which came to an end over the weekend at the entity’s resource center in Dwazon, Margibi County. It included the preparation of a five-year strategic plan intended to re-engage collaborating actors, to enhance the proper use of natural resources.
NCL’s chairperson of management team Samuel Kwennah told the Daily Observer that the round-table dialogue focuses not only on conflict resolution in the management of natural resources, but also seeks to strengthen peaceful coexistence among member NGOs within the coalition.
“NCL is critical to good governance. As such, we are interested in seeing that there is proper management of natural resource sectors, which include forests,” Mr. Kwennah said.
He added that there is impact from his coalition’s engagements with communities, concession companies, and the government.
“Through our advocacy in 2015, 24 communities benefited from concession companies that failed to undertake their social corporate responsibilities; government also paid over US$1million to the natural resource governance trustee board for some development in the affected areas,” he said.
“With the funds generated from government and companies by the trustee board, which is a part of NCL, a vocational center was built in Yarpah Town, River Cess County,” he said.
Kwennah further said that an elementary school was built in Zoegar Bayo Town, in Grand Bassa County, while two clinics were built in River Gee County.
“In Grand Gedeh County, we have succeeded in establishing a guesthouse and two elementary schools were built from the same advocacy as in Lofa,” he said.
Kwennah is the program manager for the extractive industry and human rights program of Save My Future Foundation (SAMFU), which is a member NGO to the NCL.
He said the formation of NCL was predicated upon a survey, which showed that conflicts, including the civil war that erupted over the years, came as a result of disenchantment over the poor management of natural resources.
Mina Beyan, program director of Social Entrepreneurs for Sustainable Development (SESDev), expressed how impressed she was with the level of collaboration among the NCL member organizations, and hoped more success stories can be told in the near future.
She added that her NGO also provides legal support to local communities in Grand Kru, Sinoe, and a few other counties in the southeast. “Knowing that we are interested in engendering change, we advocate for the government to push concession companies to live up to their commitments. The people need good roads to transport their farm produce to markets, schools to educate their children, clinics for proper medical care and other social benefits necessary for elevating their living standards,” she said.
“Although there are laws giving more leverage to County Legislative Caucuses to decide on what kind of development is carried out in their constituencies, we think there is a need for the local people to have more say in what they want; be it school, clinic or road,” Beyan said.
A facilitator at Community Development Initiative (CDI) Nettie Diagor said more awareness and support are needed to help save forests and mangrove swamps from degradation.
“People think that mangrove swamps are wastelands and so they throw trash in them and abuse them in so many other different ways,” Diagor said. “In Grand Cape Mount where we presently work, 13 communities fell trees for charcoal burning and constant and excessive fishing at Lake Piso are on the rise.”
She noted that there is no need, however, to blame the residents involved in degrading forests by felling trees and extracting lots of fish from Lake Piso, because those activities are serving as their means of survival.
“This is why CDI is now helping them do sustainable farming [small farms for food and little cash earning for family needs]. We are in collaboration with REDD+ of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), helping them with tools to work and educating them also on how they should make their vegetable beds for a fruitful harvest,” she said.
The strategic plan dialogue workshop, which was facilitated by a team of experts in natural resource management, included Sarah Thomas from the University of Wolverhampton, United Kingdom.
NCL is composed of 20 CSOs (Civil Society Organizations) and was formed in 2003 at the Accra Peace Accord (CPA) that brought an end to the protracted civil war and shared power among the warring factions in the transitional government.