On August 26, 2021, authorities of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) constituted a committee named and styled Community Forest Management Review Taskforce. https://www.liberianobserver.com/fda-sets-forest-management-taskforce.
The team is tasked to review issues around community forest since its inception as part of efforts to reform the forestry sector. The team is chaired by Atty. Yanquoi Z. Dolo and co-chaired by Mr. John Mckay, with Atty. Gertrude Nyaley and Mr. Edward Kamara serving as members of the committee. “The team will conduct weeklong desk review before its first monitoring field visit”, FDA Managing Director, C. Mike Doyen discloses to the press. All committee members are staff of the FDA. Civil society and Community are not represented on the committee.
The 2009 Community Rights Laws (CRL) mandates community to control and manage their forests and its resources. The CRL overarching goal is to put resources at the disposal of the community to decide their own development as custodians of the forest. Under this arrangement, the FDA is to provide guidance, but not to influence community’s decision as to what they want to do with their forests and its resources.
On September 8, 2021, the Liberia Forest Media Watch (LFMW) through its tough talking radio show, Forest Hour, interviewed the head of the FDA’s Committee, Atty. Yanquoi Z. Dolo on the composition of the committee. Atty. Yanqoui Dolo is FDA’S in-house lawyer. In a phone-in-interview on September 8, 2021 on the Forest Hour show, Dolo confirmed media reports that FDA had constituted a taskforce to review the issues of community forest management. He told Forest Hour that the group will basically review the current or existing community forest management plan and the auxiliary documents, with the goal to ascertain or determine the compliance level internally within the FDA; and to basically inform decision as it relates to improving forest governance.
Atty. at Law Yanqoui Dolo disclosed that the review has already commenced, and recommendations from the review will inform the next course of action. He noted that their approach to this review is to use the current community forest management existing framework to see how they can identify the current level of compliance with that framework. Whether or not they are prepared to use other options, Dolo said they might consider other options after the committee has established how the current framework works. “So here is it Moses, this is an internal review. Like any other entity, there are periods and times that institutions will move on to see how their systems work. So the FDA has been a very opened institution if not one of the most transparent within our country”, Atty. Nyanqoui Dolo.
Dolo was very clear that the exercise is an internal review that does not required CSOs participation, adding the early stage of the exercise is intended for internal review, and when the need arises for the governance actors or wider scope to get involved, CSOs will definitely get involve, said Atty. Dolo.
“Moses again, every organization move on to implement its activities and sees how it is working; whether it is working to its own plan, whether there are challenges, so every institution needs some level of internal review and we think that our community forestry program is a very critical one. The success of this program; the first of its type, basically granting right and ownership to communities, will determine to a large extent how rural communities get engaged and involved in other things. So we at the FDA see this process as a very important one”.
Dolo said while the FDA appreciates the work of other stakeholders, the review is strictly FDA’s work, at such; they would like to keep it at that. Speaking on the specific data the committee is using to conduct the review, Atty. Yanqoui Dolo said the committee is going to utilize all documents presented by all sector actors including community forest owners, third party holders and other stakeholders. To what extent media reports will impact that process, Dolo said “we cannot say, but the scope of our review is to review the planning process and in that planning process, we are looking for documents with evidence. So thank you Moses but one thing before I leave, I mean just for clarity: The FDA is conducting an internal review, findings will officially be made public by the management. Whatever corrective actions needed, will be presented to the public”.
Meanwhile, a top official of the National Union of Community Forestry Development Committee (NUCFDC), Andrew Zelemen has questioned FDA’s decision to review community forest only; when according to him some Forest Management Contracts (FMCs) and Timber Sale Contracts (TSCs) have been abandoned by their owners for over 5-6 years. Zelemen says they (NUCFDC) have officially communicated this to the FDA, and also as raised the matter at all stakeholder group meetings, but less has been done to intervene.
“I am calling on the FDA to clearly explain to us at the NMSMC, CFWG, LIC how this review process looks like. While a sudden plan only to review community forest planning process? Some FMCs and TSCs are abandoned by owners for over 4, 5, 6 years and we have written FDA and raised the issues at all stakeholder group meetings, nothing much is been instituted by the FDA, while only community forest? We are concerned and we think the FDA should let us know how this process is like and why only community forest”? Zelemen laments.