By Precious D Freeman
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and three forest service providers in Liberia have signed an agreement on the protection and management of the country’s vast forest region.
The agreement was signed Wednesday between FAO, the Nature Compact, the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), and the Foundation for Community Initiatives (FCI), at the United Nations One House in the Sinkor suburb of Monrovia.
It is under the Community-Based Forestry and Protected Area Management (CBFM): Boosting Biodiversity Conservation and Improving Livelihoods of Forest-Fringe or Forest-Development Communities and Groups in Liberia.
The agreement also seeks to strengthen the management of community forests and protected areas in Liberia, through improved governance of community forest management bodies, capacity building of forest regulatory institutions, empowerment of national CSOs/NGOs and Forest and Farm Producer Organizations, integrated natural resource management, and the promotion of sustainable livelihood incentives for forest fringe communities which will be member-based, democratically managed organizations of farmers living in forest fringe.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, FAO Representative ad Interim in Liberia, Bintia Stephen- Tchicaya, said FAO looks forward to seeing robust interventions as part of efforts to contribute to boosting Biodiversity Conservation and improving the livelihoods of Forest-Fringe or Forest-Dependent Communities and Groups in Liberia.
Madam Tchicaya called on the three service providers to be serious in the implementation of the agreement, because the money given to them are other countries’ tax payers’ money and want to see the best from them.
She indicated that the agreement is a long-term goal to contribute to reduce climate change effects through improved sustainable livelihood, conservation, and forest restoration among others.
Madam Tchicaya said, “To our Service Providers, I have full confidence that, as we leave from here, you will embark on the implementation process with enthusiasm and passion and accomplish the expected objectives of this project. We implore you to invoke a community-driven approach towards ensuring that the results realized, through the nine-step process of becoming authorized forest communities, will be led, managed, and owned by the stewards of these resources and the local people. Your role, backstopped by FAO, and in partnership with FDA, would be technical assistance and coordination, whilst theirs, as a community, should be to drive every step of the way.”
She then reaffirmed FAO‘s commitment to supporting the people of Liberia by providing financial and technical support to enhance Civil Society Organizations’, (CSOs) and eventually Community Based Organizations’ (CBOs) organizational management and capacities to strengthen community forestry governance institutions across the country.
For by doing so, only, would we be able to protect the remaining 43 percent of the Upper Guinean Forest biome, and ensure that these priceless resources are passed on to our children in a more sustainable way, consistent with the principles of intergenerational equity.
The long-term goal is to contribute to reducing climate change effects through improved sustainable livelihood, conservation, and forest restoration, all in a gender–responsive manner, which significantly contributes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Biodiversity.
Madam Tchicaya said FAO remains thankful to the Embassy of Sweden for supporting this project and is looking forward to having more collaboration in finding solutions to address threats and drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, ensuring effective Community Forest Management.
Also speaking, the Program Office for Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources at the Swedish Embassy, Jenkins Flahwor, said the agreement can bring about change at the ten communities level.
Flahwor said the agreement will provide alternative livelihoods from the people by putting them in the position to protect their respective forests.
He said alternative livelihoods are essential for the protection and management of the forests, because over the past years, that was where the people earned their living.
Flahwor pledged the Swedish Embassy’s commitment to work with FAO in supporting service providers in the protection and management of Liberia’s vast forest.
For his part, one of the three forest service providers, the Sustainable Development Institute’s Executive Director, Wilfred Gray-Johnson, thanked FAO and Swedish Embassy for support, vowing to actualize the agreement.
The three Service Providers will work to support the establishment and management of designated Community Forests in ten communities, to go through the nine-step process; strengthen forest governance systems, increase knowledge of the values of conserving biodiversity, and improve capacity to support the sustainable management of community forests in the northwest and southeast landscapes.