Forest Communities Begin Nationwide Protest Following 2 Years of Fruitless Negotiations for Their Benefits
By Liberia Forest Media Watch
Forest Communities in Liberia, led by the National Union of Community Forestry Development Committee (NUCFDC) on Tuesday, May 18, 2021 began a nationwide peaceful protest following 2 years of fruitless negotiations in demand of over US$2M arrears due them from various concession agreements, Junior Kezelee reports from Lofa County.
“The Marches are organized by the NUCFDC in collaboration with the 23 CFDC across Liberia”, NUCFDC National Facilitator Andrew Zelemen has said. Mr. Zelemen told LFMW that, the protest is intended to pressure the Government of Liberia and the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) to heed to communities’ demands for their share of land rental fees collected by the Government of Liberia from logging Companies.
The nationwide protest started in Zozor, Lofa County, and will be extended to three additional counties including Grand Bassa, Grand Gedeh and Maryland. Andrew Zelemen said the NUCFDC with its 23 CFDC envisioned peaceful and sustained protests aimed at pressuring national forest stakeholders to respond to their many calls for communities’ benefits.
“We anticipate a peaceful nationwide protest for the Government of Liberia to see reasons to pay communities and counties share of land rental fees and ensure that the companies pay the arrears they owed communities”, Zelemen emphasized.
Communities’ efforts to get their share of land rental fees paid to government by companies began in August 2019, at a press conference where officials representing the business interests of communities announced that they will stage a nationwide protest if the Government of Liberia failed to meet their demand. https://www.liberianobserver.com/news/nucfdc-demand-us2m-in-2019-2020-budget-for-forest-communities/.
“If the government does not respond, the forest advocacy group alongside the 230 members, officials and 23 CFDC in the 11 counties and all members of affected communities said they will organize a peaceful mass protest to halt all logging activities in the affected communities”, NUCFDC Facilitator is quoted as saying during the press conference.
The NUCFDC officials recalled at the press conference that from 2015 to 2017, the Government of Liberia provided US$2.6 Million as part payment of the arrears government owed affected communities from the land rental fees it collected since 2009. He further disclosed that since the payment of the US$2.6 Million for the year 2015 to 2017, communities are yet to receive any payment of land rental fees paid to Government by logging companies.
In November 2020, the communities reiterated calls for their just benefits at the National Forest Forum held in the commercial City of Ganta, Nimba County. At that forum, issues surrounding Forest resource benefit sharing for communities was key among many topics discussed. https://www.liberianobserver.com/news/forest-resource-benefit-sharing-others-key-at-first-national-forest-forum/.
Although key forest stakeholders attended the Forum, it appears nothing tangible has happened, prompting communities through the NUCFDC to launch the long awaited nationwide protest it promised in 2019 and 2020.