The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in collaboration with the Liberia Forest Sector Project (LFSP) has ended a two-day workshop on “Natural Resource Management” in Bopolu City, Gbarpolu County.
According to an EPA release, the forum was intended for community dwellers and leaders within the Western Region of Liberia; covering Bomi, Grand Cape Mount and Gbarpolu Counties, to be abreast with the forestry management laws of Liberia and issues of environmental concerns to the country.
Speaking at the start of the workshop, Manager for Planning and Policy at the EPA, Mr. Elijah Z. Whapoe, explained that the workshop was in line with the agreement between the Governments of Liberia and Norway to help reduce deforestation and degradation in targeted forest landscapes.
Mr. Whapoe, who is also the LFSP Focal Point, said the US$37.5 million project, which is supported by the Norwegian government, focuses on three areas including the protection of areas under forest cover in targeted forest landscapes, emission reductions and carbon sequestration and people in targeted forests adjacent communities, while at the same time increasing monetary values of the forest.
He said beneficiaries of the project are Liberian communities that are mostly dependent on forest resources from the northwestern region of the country covering Bomi, Gbarpolu, Grand Cape Mount and Lofa Counties; and the southeastern region of Grand Gedeh, Grand Kru, Rivercess and River Gee Counties.
He noted that it is being implemented by several governments’ entities including the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), EPA, Ministries of Agriculture (MOA), and Lands, Mines and Energy (LME), the Liberia Land Authority (LLA) and the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo–information Services (LISGIS).
At the end of his presentation, participants called for continuous engagement in discussing natural resource management issues and providing more training for community people to get full understanding of Nature Resource Management.
Also speaking, the LFSP Environmental Safeguards Coordinator, Mr. Nick B. Goll II., stressed that forest plays an invaluable role to the survival of humans.
Presenting on the topic: “The relationship between community and forests,” Mr. Goll indicated that there is a complex interaction between local communities and their forests; noting that an estimated 60 million indigenous people depend on the forest for livelihood.
According to him, this huge population of people gets some important products including timber, fuel wood, wild food-animal and plants, medicinal plants, other non-timber forest products, (NTFP) and grazing for animals.
Also making a presentation at the forum, FDA’s Regional Forester of Region One, Madam Ruth Varnie, pointed out that Liberia is one of the few countries with legal framework that purposely addresses community rights to forest.
Madam Varnie was presenting on the topic: “Community Forest Management: Processes, Practices, Rights and Responsibilities.”
This framework, Mrs. Varnie averred, includes legislation and regulations that outline the process to secure community forest rights, while taking into consideration the implementation of pilot projects to demonstrate the feasibility of the Framework.
Giving some historical facts relative to community forest in Liberia, she recalled that Community forestry first came to importance in the mid-70s and continued to evolve over the last few decades in a growing number.
“Some milestone achievements of recent are the establishment of the National Forest Reform Law (NFRL) of 2006 which deals the community, commercial conservation aspects of the forest, known as the three C’s principle,” Madam Varnie said.
“The NFRL created the “Three Cs”s approach to forest management, whereas Community forest management is an evolving branch of forestry where by the local community play a significant role in forest management and land use. Community Forestry involves the participation and collaboration of various stakeholders,” she furthered.
She highlighted that the NFRL gives exclusive rights to the role of local community in forest management, and stressed that understanding the legal framework and the processes that are contained therein are vital in ensuring that these rights are properly secured.
“As part of their duty, communities should work closely with the FDA to ensure the success of the community forestry program which gives rise to community gaining access to their community forest land through legal ownership,” Madam Varnie added.
Following presentation on the challenges of climate change, adaptation and mitigation in Liberia by J. S. Datuama Cammue, CBD Focal Point, there were series of suggestions intended to overcome the challenges over the proper management of the forest.
Accordingly, it was suggested that local community dwellers and FDA to be trained to improve extension services to encourage farmers for crops intensification and MOA to increase farmers-technicians ratio.
Other suggestions included the enforcement of existing regulations and formulation of new policies to address current day realities on mining, establishment of sawmills by logging companies as per regulations and FDA/EPA, community and partners should enforce endangered animal species regulations; MOA to encourage community dwellers in animal husbandry.
The counties authorities in separate remarks lauded the government and its partners for the enlightenment and called the inclusion of all concerned in the process.
Hon. Eric Penney, Acting Superintendent and County Inspector of Grand Cape Mount County, Hon. Ernest Gray Davies, Development Superintendent of Bomi and Mr. William S. Mulbah, Administrative Assistant to Honorable Armah Sannoh Superintendent of Gbarpolu County represented their respective counties.