Liberian and international NGOs took part in a conference with Liberian government officials in Monrovia in October at a crucial juncture for the country’s forests, with the country’s parliament considering a Land Rights Act that could hand over half the country to communities.
Global Witness, Liberia’s NGO coalition, the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) hosted Rethinking Liberia’s Forests on 6 and 7 October to discuss the future of the country’s forestry sector.
Interest was keen: more than 200 people attended, twice what was expected. Several participants noted that for Global Witness and the FDA – often critical of each other – to host a conference together was progress in the discussion about the role industrial logging should play versus community forestry in Liberia. Many presentations noted that the diverse goods and services forests provide to local livelihoods are often lost after logging or conversion to mono-crop agricultural concessions.
The NGO coalition and RRI underscored the exemplary role Liberia could set in the region if it adopted the draft Land Rights Act currently before the Parliament, which would allow communities to own and manage the land they live on. The US and EU ambassadors stated, respectively, that there was no future in the large-scale concession model and that the Voluntary Partnership Agreement model had brought meaningful improvements in governance and community participation.
It now remains to be seen if the Land Rights Act will pass and if communities directly managing forests become a viable way forward, economically, environmentally and socially.
[photo: Travis Lupick via Flickr]