Abundant Natural Resources, but Poverty-stricken People

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Article 7 of the Liberian Constitution states that all citizens of this country must be free and treated fairly in the society; that our national riches and God’s gifts in our forest and forest lands be properly taken care of so that all Liberians may receive equal benefits for self-improvement and for the development of the country.

Again in chapter 10 of the 2006 New Forest Law of Liberia—otherwise known as the National Forest Reform Law— states that the reason for the New Forest Law is to give power to communities so that they can carry on complete and careful control of the forests of Liberia for a very long period of time. The communities will do this by setting up a plan that will be in line with a law that will support community-rights in taking proper care of the forest materials when anyone wants to use the forest for any reason.

The National Forest Reform Law also made it clear that the community will have the right to no less than 55% of all the revenues or income or all of the money and benefits that will come from any logging activities concession companies carry out in their forests.

The Land Rights and Community Forestry Program (LRCFP) is a UASID project assisting the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and forest-based communities to jointly manage Liberia’s forest lands.

With such good laws on the books and an abundance of natural resources, there is no doubt that 90% of the 3.5 million people according to the Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Services 2008 Housing and Population Census, should have been living at the middle-class level.

With such a small population, however, the vast majority is still living on less than US$1 a day despite naturally abundant mineral and forest resources.

This author saw stacks of logs belonging to the Atlantic Resources Logging Company, a logging company that is operating in Lofa County but using Botota, Kokoyah Statutory District seat of the local administration as transit point.

It is not hyperbole, but one has to throw his head to the back of his neck in order to fully assess the height of the stockpiled logs.

When our correspondent visited Botota over the weekend, it was established that the logs are stockpiled in the area before being transported to the port city of Buchanan, Grand Bassa County for shipment.

The poor people will always have less access to health, education and other basic services.

Problems of hunger, malnutrition, and disease afflict the poorest in this country. The poorest are typically marginalized from society and have little representation or voice in public and political debates, making it even harder for them to escape poverty, Paramount Chief Togar Glegboe asserted.

Paramount Chief Togar Glegboe named inequality, bad government policy and exploitation by people with power and influence as some of the causes of abject poverty in this country.

“High levels of inequality will affect social cohesion and lead to problems such as an increase in crime and violence. Inequality is often a measure relative to poverty” the Paramount Chief emphasized.

Despite huge resources, and a small population people are not feeling the positive impact of our minerals and forests resources, the Paramount Chief Togar Glegboe concluded.

The forests are some of the most important among the many gifts of God in Liberia which belong to us as a people, our children and grand children; so policy makers should ensure that real laws made for the betterment of our children and the country.

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