Liberian Forest Communities want a pro forest media group, the Liberia Forest Media Watch (LFMW) and its international partners to decentralize the Forest Hour radio program held weekly on a local radio station.
The Facilitator of the National Union of Community Forest Management Body (CFMB), Bonathan Walaka made the plead at a one day Forest Media Stakeholders organized by LFMW on Tuesday, July 20, 2021, with support from the European Union (EU). Walaka stressed the need for communities to have the media by their side, noting, the media through LFMW has shown strength in exposing illegalities in the forestry sector.
“So to educate our people, we need the media by our side. We want the Forest Hour to be decentralized so as to provide more education for our people so that they can know their basic rights. By this, the community will be able to share their concerns through the media,” Walaka added.
Forest Hour radio show was established in April 2019 with technical support from a European Union’s sponsored project (“Strengthening the capacity of non-state actors (NSA) to improve FLEGT-VPA and REDD+ processes in Western Africa”). Since its establishment, the show has highlighted over 30 critical forest issues ranging from non-compliance, illegal logging and corruption by officials of community forest bodies.https://newspublictrust.com/scandal-in-gba-community-forest-nimba-county. The show also put forest communities on the agenda of the monthly meeting of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA). https://www.tropenbos.org/news/radio+programme+puts+forest+communities+on+liberia%E2%80%99s+national+agenda+
In separate, but related remarks to selected journalists from both print and electronic media, the NUCFMB Facilitator disclosed that there is currently 47 singed Forest Management Agreement (CFMA). He pointed out that of the 47; only about 15 percent of the forest concessions have little or no problems. This means that the remaining 85 percent of the forests under concession agreement is marred by serious controversy due to disagreements between the community and concessionaires on one hand and community to community on the other hand. https://gnnliberia.com/2021/06/12/chaos-erupts-at-mou-signing-ceremony-in-konobo-community-forest
Walaka told the media executives that data has shown that communities have very limited or no knowledge about those Community Forest Management Agreements (CFMAs), stressing, this is one of the root causes of most of the problems in the sector. “There are noncompliance issues in the forest sector. Before signing any agreement, the community supposed to or must have been aware of the terms and conditions and their royalties in that agreement, but this is not the case”.
The NUCFB official used the occasion to describe interference from local political leaders in community forest issues as troubling and major distraction to ongoing reform initiatives in the forestry sector. “As I speak to you, gun men are still into the Gbi and Doru forest while block cutting is taking place”.
The purpose of the one-day media forum is to enhance media relations in forest governance, as well as brief the media about LFMW’s activities under the European Union Direct Grand support with the aim of “Strengthening the Capacity of the Civil Society for the implementation of the VPA FLEGT process”.
Mr. Paul Kanneh, Team Leader of LFMW, said engagement with the Liberian media is the best way forward in discovering most of the “serious issues” in the forest sector. Kanneh, a former public relations expert and Liberian journalist, who worked with the Heritage Newspaper and a host of other news outlets, stated that the formation of a pro forest media group is intended to increase access to information in the forest sector for the greater good of the society.
“Our purpose is to support the forest sector. Our aim basically is to increase access to information in the forest sector and so we decided to engage the independent media,” Paul asserted.
“With my few years of working as a Public Relations Officer and independent journalist, I got to realize that the media is great; the power of the media cannot be overemphasized. The media has revolutionized reporting in the forest sector and this is why we were recognized. Again, we want increased access to information in the forest sector. It’s not about taking glory but partnership,” the LFMW official added.
LFMW is a conglomeration of like-minded journalists, independent and investigative reporters covering natural resource sector with emphasis on forest.