“I didn’t Boycott Donor Confab in Abidjan” -FDA Boss Rubbishes Reports; Says Forestry Sector Succeeding

MONROVIA – The Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), Mike Doryen, Jr has categorically denied and termed as false some media reports that he deliberately boycotted a Donor Conference in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire and that because of his absence Liberia lost the opportunity of receiving a grant for USD 16 M. Director Doryen said, in fact, despite the challenges the forestry sector is experiencing, great strides are being recorded, thus putting the sector on the right trajectory.

The FDA Boss made the clarifications yesterday, Thursday, June 23, 2022 at his office when he met with some media personalities to address issues around the allegation and to have a conversation on the achievements recorded over a time period.

He told the media that in the first place there was nothing like a donor conference held in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, rather it was a strategic and operation planning meeting which government officials and other stakeholders attend to discuss cross boundary conservation issues, especially the Tai-Sarpo-Grebo-Krahn Park, as both countries have national parks directly bordering each other, thus the need for officials from both ends especially technicians to meet and address issues around working together.

“As a matter of fact, there was no donor conference in Ivory Coast during the period that it was reported for the forest sector and it is clear. The other issue they mentioned is that the Ivorian minister of environment who is my counterpart went to the airport to receive me, that is not true. The first thing is that the Ivorian minister of environment long before the gathering sent a message that a proxy will represent him and it was even on the program sheet, so if this man cannot go to the program, then how can he go to the airport to receive me?  Besides that, there are protocols assigned to these things. I went to Cameroon and I was assigned with an armed bodyguard, an official vehicle but the Minister of Environment did not come for me, protocol is responsible,” Doryen said.

While admitting that there was indeed an invitation sent to him as per the purpose of the conference but he did not attend. He provided three reasons why he could not attend the meeting, which he said in any given situation that was the best decision taken.

“In the first place, the Ivorian Environment Minister had already told the organizers that he will not be going to the meeting but will be sending his COS, and of course, I cannot sit with the COS to hold discussions where decisions have to be made. Secondly, I was having series of meeting with some senators on the process of amending the existing wildlife laws of the country right around the time the meeting was taking place in Abidjan. And thirdly, I was deeply involved with protocols for the signing of a USD 8 m grant from the UNDP which means that there was something important to stay back and follow up with. In Abidjan, there was no money there, but here there was money and so I have to stay here to make sure the money is secured,” the FDA boss disclosed.

He said he was not a stranger to donor funding, having worked from the entry level to leadership level within the NGO setting, and that he has even gone as far as obtaining a Master’s degree in international development with emphasis on Oversea Development Assistance. Mr. Doryen said it baffled him when the story was flying around of the government losing USD 16 m because he did not attend a so-called donor conference.

On other matters, Doryen said there have been some positive developments taking place at his entity such that the initial target of generating revenue from donor sources which was put at USD50m have shown signs that it will quite exceed the figure. He said while still in the second quarter of the year, donors have already started to commit funds to the forest sector, naming the US government as provider of the first USD 20M, while the Swedish government for its part has given USD8m, totaling USD 28m, accounting for more than half of the USD 50m.

While sounding optimistic about more funds coming in, Doryen said discussions are at an advanced stage with the European Union and there are positive signs that they will contribute before the end of the year, the same with FDA German partners, the French Development Agency as well as the European Development Bank. He thanked President Weah for putting the sector on the front burner of his development agenda and that through that the FDA has been making strides.

The FDA boss said the Liberian forest sector is gaining such traction because of the country’s large forest endowment, currently accounting for more than 50% of the entire remaining forest in West Africa and being one of the three largest forest estates in the world, following the Amazon and the Congo Forest.

He further said he is aware of Liberia’s significance in international development as it has a comparative advantage especially in the area of climate change and the country’s forest can be a factor in mitigation.

Speaking further on the impact of his institution with respect to revenue generation, he said to date, FDA under his stewardship had brought in more money for the government and that even the USD 150 m grant from the Norwegian government is smaller than what FDA has ploughed in government’s treasury. He elaborated that disbursement of the Norwegian USD150 m has not gone down well because of the bottlenecks, saying the first USD 15m was brought in three years, another USD 37m for conservation purpose while the Norwegians are saying that rest of the money will prepare the country for a sustainable forest development and result performance payment, which according to him constitute difficulties to access the fund due to a lot of technicalities and bureaucracies.

Listing another benefit of the sector to the country, Doryen said for the first time in the country, there is a vinyl factory established in Grand Bassa County to promote value addition to the forest product in the country and once inaugurated, will employ up to 500 Liberians.

He also used the occasion to address the Human-Wildlife conflict and measures taken to protect Liberia’s wildlife. Director Doryen addressed the issue of a forest buffalo entering Kpatawe, Bong County causing panic in the area; chimpanzees migrating from one place to another in Nimba County, apparently after their habitat was disturbed by the blasting that went along the Ganta-Saclepea Road corridor; an elephant destroying crops in Lofa, etc. He said the government has secured a number of convictions for killing elephants and other wildlife around the country as a way of protecting the country’s wildlife.

He was also quick to state that discussions are underway with some members of the national legislature to enact laws that will provide compensation for citizens whose crops or properties get destroyed by any of the wildlife animals in the country.

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