A report titled "the Liberia Social Audit' released by the Independent Forest Monitors, a civil society group, takes an in-depth look at Liberia's forest sector and some of the challenges it faces in terms of community participation and benefit sharing.
Although there has been some progress in the forestry legal framework in recent years, Liberia still has a long way to go in making sure that the forestry sector actually benefits the Liberian people.
A new report released by the Independent Forest Monitors, a civil society group, highlights some important issues with the forestry sector in Liberia.
The report titled "the Liberia Social Audit' takes an in-depth look at Liberia's forest sector and some of the challenges it faces in terms of community participation and benefit sharing.
The report disclosed that logging companies still owe the Government of Liberia over US$43 million, money that could be spent on improving quality of life for ordinary Liberians by providing better access to healthcare, education and jobs.
The group observed that the issues raised in the report must be quickly addressed so that Liberians can obtain benefits from the forestry sector. Although sustainable forestry should be an important part of the Liberian economy, the report indicated that so far, the sector has not provided the benefits that were expected.
Jonathan Yiah of the Sustainable Development Institute explained that "Logging concessions have been invoiced for over US$61 million in Land Rental Payments since they were awarded the concessions in 2008 and 2009, but so far they have only paid approximately US$18 million to the Government of Liberia. This means logging companies still owe the Government of Liberia over US$43 million".
The report revealed that communities have not been receiving the correct benefits from the Government of Liberia out of the fees that have been paid by the companies. It added that affected communities are supposed to receive 30 percent for Land Rental Fees paid by logging companies, but are yet to receive a dime due to problems at the Ministry of Finance, suggesting that "communities are very dissatisfied because they are receiving very little benefits".
Roland Harris of the Independent Forest Monitors added that "the logging concessions that are currently operating were not awarded contract in the right manner, and the laws were not followed correctly".
He said logging companies did not always meet the requirements for operating a concession, such as having enough money to invest in equipment and processing facilities.
The report further said local communities have not been consulted in the correct manner before a logging company began harvesting timber in some concession areas. This attitude, according to the report, has often led to dissatisfaction amongst communities because they do not fully consent to the logging concessions.
In many cases, the communities reported that social agreements that they signed with logging companies were negotiated rather too hastily, and that they wished to renegotiate them to provide for more community development benefits.
"Communities are also not satisfied with the payment that they receive for each cubic meter of timber, which is at the most just US$1.50 per cube. When the timber is exported, it can be sold for more than US$300 per cubic meter, so there is a feeling that this is not a good deal for communities," said Duwana Kingsley of the NGO Coalition of Liberia.
He added, "Communities do not have the right level of access to information, such as contract documents, maps, the Annual Operational Plan and the Forest Management Plans. It is important that communities have access to these documents through the Forestry Development Authority so that they can check that the forests are being managed in line with the law, and report any problems to their Community Forestry Development Committees, the FDA or civil society".
The group said those interested in the report should log online at: http://loggingoff.info/countries/liberia or by contacting the Civil Society-Independent Forest Monitors on: +231 77 001454