Liberia Forest stakeholders validate their national forest convergence plan report
The forum to validate Liberia’s contribution to the ECOWAS regional convergence plan on forests was organized in Monrovia on 17th and 18th April 2012. It brought together approximately 50 representatives among government agencies which develop and supervise the implementation of policies that impact forests, civil society actors, centers of excellence i.e. the University of Liberia and others to be part of a planning process expected to lead to a new regional deal on forests in West Africa.
Opening the forum, Honorable Moses WOGBEH Snr, Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority of Liberia (FDA), indicated that Liberia was engaged in multilateral discussions with the Republic of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Cote’ D’Ivoire for the formulation of a memorandum of understanding related to the joint management of the forest ecosystem shared among them. He recalled that Liberia was also progressing with its 3C approach of forest management :
- Commercial, through a transparent public bidding process for the award of forest concessions;
- Community, through the empowerment and public participation at all levels of the forest governance process,
- Conservation, through the identification of a network of conservation areas to constitute 30% of the country’s surface area as advocated by the country’s Forest Reform Law of 2006.
The Managing Director of the FDA thanked ECOWAS, the FAO and IUCN for the support that made the forum a reality and wished that the convergence will render isolated forest management an issue of the past.
Speaking on behalf of the ECOWAS Commissioner of Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources, Mr. Samuel MEDU narrated the stages transited by the ECOWAS Convergence planning process; starting from studies in 2005, a workshop in 2006, to a Ministerial meeting in Cotonou, Benin, in 2010 that adopted the West Africa Dialogue on Forests currently in its convergence planning phase. Mr. MEDU informed forum participants that West Africa’s forest was degrading at an alarming rate due to unprecedented exploitation with negative consequences on forest cover and precious bio-diversity, hence the need for its concerted management.
The FAO Country Representative for Liberia, Mr. Jean-Alexandre SCAGLIA for his part, reiterated the FAO’s commitment to the West Africa Dialogue on Forests process indicating that the FAO will continue to be a veritable partner in forest management through amongst others; its financial support and the supply of relevant forest data required for forest planning and management in Liberia, West Africa, and the world over.
Dr. Martin NGANJE who represented IUCN, while thanking the FDA, ECOWAS, and the FAO for organizing the forum, indicated that inadequately coordinated forestry policies and attendant practices were promoting unplanned forest clearance for construction or simply just to own land, over-grazing of tree fodder by livestock, large-scale expansion and inconsiderate intensification of cash crops, all at the detriment of West Africa’s forest patrimony and the livelihoods that depended on forest and wildlife resources. Dr. NGANJE indicated that the old-standing problem of supporting livelihoods while securing forest and wildlife conservation was still evasive and that it was necessary to broaden participation in forest management. He indicated that the solution would require the thinking and research capability of the centers of excellence such as the University of Liberia; the entrepreneurial prowess of the private sector; the environmental activism of civil society organizations; the conservation sensitivity of members of the House of Representatives; the law enforcement capability of the Forestry Development Authority; the persistent forestry and wildlife consideration in policies of ministerial departments responsible for Agriculture, Energy, Mines, Livestock, Health, Hydrology, Economy and Finance; and the participation of active forest dependents including women.
Forests in Liberia
It should be indicated that Liberia has a total land area of 9.58 million hectares and a total forest area of 4.52 million hectares. The annual rate of deforestation has been reported to be 0.3 percent, while the total recorded establishment of new forest plantations to date amounts only to about 11,000 hectares. Notwithstanding, Liberia contains 42% of the West Africa Guinean Moist Forest, and a significant amount of biodiversity including over 2,900 different vascular plants (including 225 tree species), 600 birds species, 150 mammal species, and 75 reptile species.