By Stephen G. Fellajuah
The Management of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) has announced the appointment of a 4 man Community Forest Management Review Task Force, with a mandate to conduct a comprehensive review of the planning process of third-party-managed community forest to ensure compliance and further enhance forestry governance. Those appointed with their qualifications are Atty. Yanquoi Z. Dolo BSc (Forestry) LLB (General Law), LLM (Environmental Laws) who is to chair the team while Mr. John McKay BSc (Forestry) MSc (Environmental Science) is the Co-Chair, and Atty. Gertrude Nyaley BSc (Forestry) MSc (Forestry) LLB (General Law), and Mr. Edward Kamara BSc (Forestry) are members. The team will execute the mandate within 100 days commencing from August 30, 2021, and make its report to the Managing Director.
Disclosing this at a press conference on Thursday, August 26, 2021, the Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority, C. Mike Doyen said the communities utilize their forest through the community forestry management program implemented by the Forestry Development Authority for economic, social and environmental benefits.
Under the community rights law which is part of the reforms measures instituted by the sector, communities are given rights to manage their forests for 15 years after said period, the government and communities can have discussion on way forward, Doyen accentuated and said the committee will review the plan of the authorized community management rights.
In addition, Mr. Doyen said, communities have exercised their rights to forest resources through several means, including third-party management agreements. He noted that these agreements grant third-party rights to community forests resources to logging companies.
“FDA has therefore mandated a comprehensive review of the planning process of third-party-managed community forest to ensure compliance and further enhance forest governance”, the Managing Director said.
Focusing on community forestry management, Mr. Doyen emphasized that the committee shall fully utilize the resources and expertise of the Law Enforcement Division and the Confiscation Unit of the FDA.
Speaking further, the FDA boss also explained that the objective of the team is to conduct a comprehensive review of Authorized Community Forests planning process and to identify compliance level of planning and harvesting requirements of community forest actors.
He disclosed that the Government of Liberia and the Community Forest Management Union (CFMU) have reached an agreement to directly deposit 30% of land fees to the account established by the CFMU referred to as Benefit Trust Fund, adding that the Government will pay arrear up to Two Hundred Thousand United States Dollars (US200, 000) inherited by past and current governments.
The expected major outcomes, the FDA Chief Executive noted, will be the review of existing Community Forests Management Plans and ancillary documents, conduct an intensive field exercise to verify the level of compliance with the legal framework governing Community forestry in Liberia, and a comprehensive report detailing findings and recommendations for corrective actions where necessary.
Stating the methodology, he said the committee will conduct a weeklong desk review before its first monitoring field visit. During the period of the desk review, no new export permit from Commercial Use Contracts will be processed. The task force will however process export permits that are already in the custody of the FDA only when the desk review of the applicant communities and their respective contractors have been done.
According to the FDA, Liberia has up to 43% of the remaining portion of the Upper Guinea Tropical Rain Forest which constitutes a significant portion of the forests in the Region. Several reforms have informed Liberia’s current forest management, which has community forestry as a significant component.