By: Moses R. Quollin, Jr. (Environmental Journalist, Liberia Forest Media Watch) firstname.lastname@example.org +231770922412/+231880922412 |
The biggest challenge of community forestry remains the continuous fights among local dwellers over the selections and operations of logging companies within a given forest community as the law provides.
The Forest Development Authority (FDA) struggles to handle cases which sometimes results to causalities and serious insecurities among forest community residents as some affected members threaten or even go about creating instability at times.
Some violence scenes witnessed the destruction of properties including burning down of towns and villages, setting up road blocks, as ‘Kuntry devils’ are often seen, brought out to allegedly create mayhems.
Many of those community forest related disputes are yet to be resolved as the Forestry Development Authority continuously complained of low capacity and inadequate logistics due to coupled low budgetary support, among others.
Sources say Community Rights Law of 2009 With Respect to Forest Lands, provides guidelines for managing a forest community but some local inhabitants ignorantly circumvent the same law for personal gains.
Many right groups, local and international organizations have pointed accusing fingers at the FDA, logging companies and local officials within crisis-related communities of directly or indirectly instigating the problem, traced it root causes to lack of awareness to the people, poor education and among others.
Observers believed that the community forestry permitting system, like in other areas too in Liberia, is being hijacked by ‘rapacious’ logging companies and a ‘complicit’ Forestry Development Authority.
“Logging companies are enlisting local elites and coercing communities into signing secret agreements that grant them logging rights, in return for them financing the process communities are required to follow in order to obtain Authorized Forest Community status, ” a 2018 Global Witness uncovered in its report captioned ‘Power To The People?’.
FDA’s Technical Manager for Community Forestry, Gertrude W.K Nyanley, in a conversation with the Liberia Forest Media Watch (LFMW), says her office doesn’t compromise the forestry law regardless of whatsoever interest as perceived by observers.
Contrary to speculations that FDA, in most cases bends the law at the detriment of affected communities, Attorney-at-law Nyanley dispelled rumors of bribery at the Authority noting that she envisions an independent community forestry sector where logging companies will avoid dishing out money among local dwellers; something which cause confusion leading to cause chaos.
She told the Liberia Forest Media Watch (LFMW) that the FDA doesn’t act on gossip and perception neither does get involve into making decision on behalf of given forest community especially over issues of logging companies selection, community leadership and forest operations.
Most of the cases, according to her, come from interested parties like aggrieves members of affected community instead of the leadership which includes Community Assemble (CA), Executive Committee (EC), or Community Forest Management Body (CFMB).
The CA (Community Assembly) is highest decision-maker; it manages its affairs through the EC (Executive Committee) whilst the day-to-day activities of the Authorized Forest Community (AFC) are performed by the CFMB (Community Forest Management Body), provided in Chapter 7 of the Community Rights Law Regulation of 2017.
“The essence of community forestry is to unite us instead of dividing us. Any attempt to break the rules would set a reserpee for chaos in this country. As a government, the C Mike Doyan leadership of FDA has been very clear that she stands with the law…” Madam Gertrude Nyanley argued whilst commenting on issues arising from conflicts areas.
However, the Global Witness, highlighting how companies are exploiting community forestry in Liberia, said “it looks very much like a re-run of the scandal that surrounded Private Use Permits – a system of forestry licenses designed for small operators that was hijacked by large rapacious logging companies.
Over 2.5 million hectares, or 23 percent of the land area of Liberia, was handed over illegally to loggers through PUPs up until their cancellation by presidential decree in 2013.”
The research also points to companies affiliated to what GW termed as “the notorious Malaysian company, Samling Global, playing a leading role in pricing control over Liberia’s rich and diverse forest ecosystems, away from communities, and for themselves.”
“It is perhaps no surprise that Samling-linked companies, which came in for some of the most severe criticism in the official investigation into Private Use Permits yet were never sanctioned, are coming back with a vengeance.” GW’s ‘Power To The People?’ maintained.