LIBERIA: Community Forest Body Wants Training In Forest Laws, Regulations

By: Liberia Forest Media Watch | |

Flash Back: Protesters calling for reform in the forest sector

The leadership of the Tarsue Community Assembly (CA)/Community Forest Management Body (CFMB) of 9,714 hectares of forest land for logging concession has stressed the need for specific training in Community Rights Laws, the 2017 regulations to the CRL, with focus on the roles and responsibilities of the CA/EC and CFMB, Ezekiel Geeplay of LFWM reports.  

Tarsue community forest is located in Sinoe County, Sanquin Statutory District. It is about 57 kilometers away from the Port City of Greenville in electoral district #3. The community is represented in the National Legislature by Matthew G. Zarzar. The community operates Authorized Community forest granted it through Community Forest Management Agreement (CFMA) with the Forestry Development Authority (FDA).

In January 2019, the community signed ‘Third Party Forest Management Agreement’ (FMC) with West Africa Forest Development Incorporated (WAFDI) to harvest logs. But some community members challenged the legitimacy of the forest contract and called for cancellation and removal of the management team of the forest management committee for act incompatible with community’s by-laws and constitution and CLR. The leadership was subsequently removed from power on February 9, 2021 though a resolution. 

On March 29, 2021, the community elected new leadership. The new Community Forest leadership therefore underscores the need for more training to enable them properly manage the forest and represent the business interest of the general community members. Chairperson of the Executive Committee (EC), Ericson Farley told LFMW that Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), Foundation for Community Initiative (FCI) and the National Union of Community Forest Management Body (NUCFMB) have provided some trainings for them, but majority of the training beneficiaries were members of the outgoing leadership. Hence, Farley wants training for members of the current leadership if they must properly run the affairs of the 9,714 hectares of community forest.  “The first training provided by SDI, FCI and NUCFMB, most of the current members of the CA were not in leadership. So we need more training for them to be able to work in good manner that will please the community”, Ericson Farley pleads.

Additionally, the EC Chairperson said they want copies of the Community Rights Law to familiarize themselves with relevant provisions when defending the community or pushing particular issue of concern. He noted that with knowledge of the CRL, the new leadership will be able to mitigate confusion and avoid running into conflict with the law.  

There are currently 40 members of the Tarsue Community Forest Structure, representing about twenty towns and villages with eight female representations. Three of the females are high school graduates, while five are high school dropped-out. The Executive Chairperson of the EC put the literacy rate among CA members at 30%, noting, majority of the CA members cannot read and write.

The Chief Officer of the Community Forest Management Body (CFMB), G. Dennis Wiah stated that there is currently no company operating in the Tarsue Community Forest since they opposed the operation of WAFDI. Dennis told LFMW that they stopped WAFDI from operating in their forest due to its failure to meet up with the third party agreement that governs the management of their Community Forest. “After realizing that the company was a 419 company, we met and as Community including CSOs/ CBOs and we managed to oppose the company on ground that they have refused to meet up with the third party agreement” Dennis said.

Meanwhile, several CA members and residents of Tarsue have accused the CFMB Chief Officer, G. Dennis Wiah of residing outside of the community, and running the affairs of the community forest, something they say contravenes the Community Right Laws and community by-law and constitution. Section 3.3 of the Regulation to the Community Rights Laws of 2009 says all CA members must reside within the Authorized Forest Community.ButMr. G Dennis Wiah has contested the allegation, saying, he lives in the community contrary to the allegation.

Treasure of the CFMB, Oretha Gbayon reported that there is smooth working relationship between the women and men in the CA. She however craved for more women’s participation in forest governance. “We the females are comfortable working with our male counterparts because our views, recommendations and suggestions are respected and considered by the men”, said Oretha Gbayon.   Section 4.1 of the Regulation to the Community Rights Laws of 2009 says the Community Forest Management Body shall include at least one woman.

Towns and villages comprising the Tarsuse Community Forest are: Bafforbay Community, Shampey, Moses Toe village, Sambo Community, Kayon village, Bellyford village, Gequegbo town, Field three Community, Nebel village and banblee town. Others include: Jlatagbo town, Ok village, Peter town, Konmanneh town, Paris town, Barmeh town, Tonita town, Baffore camp, Chapeh town, and Tarsue beach.

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