In their efforts to improve inclusiveness and sustainability of governance in the country’s forest sector, three Liberian non-governmental organizations on Wednesday, Feb. 28, hosted a one-day high level reflection and learning meeting in Monrovia.
The Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), with support from Friends of the Earth Netherlands (Milieudefensie); Society of the Conservation of Nature of Liberia (SCNL), with support from International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); and the Volunteers to Support International Efforts in Developing Africa (VOSIEDA) with funding from Tropenbos International, along with the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), local government and partner organizations from Sinoe County were part of the Wednesday meeting.
They met at VOSIEDA’s office complex in Paynesville to reflect and learn from implementation of the Green Livelihood Alliance (GLA) program in the country.
“The meeting aims to enable the FDA, GLA partners, local organizations and communities to critically reflect and learn from how the GLA program is working with local communities and policy makers to improve livelihoods through enhancement of protection, management, and improvement of governance of forested landscapes generally in Liberia, and specifically in Sinoe County.
“Forestry often provide services crucial to resilient rural livelihoods, food security, ecosystems, climate mitigation and climate adaptation in Liberia”…said Richard Hoff, one of the meeting’s facilitators.
“In Liberia, unsustainable cultivation of food and crops are among the root causes of deforestation as expansion of oil palm and rubber plantations lead to further deforestation and land degradation,” VOSIEDA’s team leader, Timothy Kortu, told the participants.
Kortu said incentivized by agricultural and trade policies, international actors such as multinational corporations and investors are major drivers of forest loss.
“Still, local communities with business are also contributing to loss and degradation of forests around the country,” Kortu added.
He said another important driver of deforestation and land degradation is the lack of political and private will to safeguard the critical functions that forests provide.
As a result, he said a large proportion of the country’s forest communities are among the poorest, because they are often particularly disadvantaged as their rights over land and natural resources are frequently ill-defined and far from assured. It is these critical gaps that GLA is working to address,” Kortu emphasized.
According to him, evidence and research show that local communities have a crucial role to play in safeguarding productive forested landscapes.
However, for communities to actually be able to play their role, they need to learn the importance of the security of land tenure or access to land; inclusion in decision-making on land use by government and the local and international private sector; nature-based approaches to the management of forested landscapes to add to their traditional, time-proven knowledge.
Once in place, Kortu said these conditions enable local communities to engage with stakeholders from the public and private sector to jointly decide on land use, noting, “This is inclusive and sustainable governance of forested landscapes.”
GLA is an international project hosted by three Dutch based NGOs in the Netherlands. In Liberia, the project seeks to improve the livelihoods of local communities that are among the world’s poorest countries by protecting, managing, and improving governance of forested landscapes that provide services crucial to resilient rural livelihoods, food security, ecosystems, climate mitigation and climate adaptation.
Through collaboration, GLA is facilitating multi-stakeholder dialogues with a wider group of civil society organizations (CSOs), local and international companies and the government of Liberia to improve policies and practices in the country’s forestry sector.
It is also empowering CSO partners to press public and private stakeholders for change. The agenda was “GLA Reflection and Learning Meeting,” that looked back at what the entity has achieved; the outcomes harvested over 2016/2017; thinking of those to come up with lessons learned that will inform the work in 2018.