A member of the marginalized community in Rivercess County, Mr. Samuel Outland, has called for an immediate halt on all timber-related activities in the County until proper regulatory frame work that is inclusive of all citizens’ participation through their representative is in place and adhered to.
Making the call during a story-telling forum in Yarpah’s Town, Rivercess County, the citizens complained on exclusion of women, youth and physically challenged persons during carving phases of corporate social agreements, misappropriation of funding generated from concessions and tolls, the proliferation of pit sawyers due to constant bribery of local leaders, lack of transparency and accountability and the fast depletion of the forest including very young spices of trees (among other issues) as major factors contributing to the underdevelopment of the county.
Buttressing Mr. Outland’s points, a representative of the women’s group, Madam Annie Zah, said women’s male counterparts always see them as people without direction excluding them from all community decision making bodies especially the community forest management bodies, regardless of the over 10 years of gender training from various angels.
She said women living in any rural area depend hugely on the forest for daily bread; however, authorities do not consult these women when they are allotting timber-harvesting plots, which sometimes lead to the destruction of the women’s crops—with no benefit. She complained of inadequate drinking water, no farm-to-market road, absence of medications at health facilities, lack of qualified teachers for their schools, and several other things that income generated from proper forest management could help government alleviate in their county.
She accused the County’s Superintendent of single-handedly working with the Rivercess Plank Committee, and has not produced a single report since he took office.
Madam Zah suggested the Superintendent pull out from his direct involvement on the Plank Committee to create a sense of independence.
For her part, Miss. Grace Chappy, one of the representatives of the youth at the forum, expressed serious disappointment in both national and local leaders on insincerity going on in the sector, which is leading to no development. Miss. Chappy specifically mentioned the felling of young trees by both pit sawyers and concessionaires, warning against it being taken with laxity by all residents of the area.
She expressed her worry for “no forest for our unborn children” to “be left at the mercy of whatever climate change brings” if authorities failed now on protecting the forest.
She urged national leaders to shake off the spirit of personal gains from the community’s forest if they are serious about their often-heralded comments of their concerns for Liberia’s future generations.
The Gender and Social inclusion Story Telling Forum is a component of the Multistakeholder Forest Governance and Accountability Project (MFGAP). This forum gives the exclusive platform to youth, women and physically challenged persons on experience-sharing on their roles, successes and challenges, and possible recommendations that will improve the current reality while working in the forest sector.
Working with the Liberia Media Center (LMC), MFGAP is empowering over 60 Liberian Journalists who are covering happenings in the forest sector, and constantly engaging stakeholders to ensure legal compliance to the principles of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) and promoting transparency and accountability.