About 100 participants at the just-ended workshop on Community Forestry in Liberia have called upon the Liberian government and relevant stakeholders to promote the development of community forestry, based on the aspirations and needs of communities, and the potential of their forests and lands as a means to establishing just, equitable and sustainable forms of land and resource use rights and management.
The participants that included both national and international experts appealed to the government to resolve the current lack of land and resource use-rights of rural communities in Liberia , as community forestry is one of the three pillars of the forest policy.
The government should see reason to recognize customary rights of rural people to the land and forest resources and complete the land registration process with a clear view of equitably taking into account customary rights.
The workshop was held from 12 thru 15 December under the umbrella of the Liberia Forest Initiative (LFI), with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), and Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the World Agro-Forestry Center (ICRAF).
They said community forestry is a means by which local communities can achieve sustainable economic development.
They however acknowledged it is a relatively new concept that needs to be tested, but it would be held back by tenure insecurity and ill-defined access and use rights.
According to them, community forestry is the governance and management of forest resources in designated areas/landscapes by communities for commercial and non-commercial purposes, that could further their own livelihoods and development.
They said when practicalized in Liberia, community forestry will incorporate the practices, art, science, policies, institutions and processes necessary to promote and support all aspects of sustainable community based forest management.
They said this new concept when utilized properly, would represent a hitherto unused and unstructured opportunity to promote the development of local communities in Liberia and the sustainable use of forest resources through the use of a wide range of inaccessible, underutilized or underdeveloped products and services. Also provides an entry point to improve governance and empower local communities.
Speaking at the closing ceremony, Dr. Amos C. Sawyer described the deliberations at the workshop as democratic and the beginning of a new democratic dispensation in Liberia .
He promised to bring to the attention of transitional team meeting resolution and encourage team members keep them in mind.
For his part, Mr. D. Eugene Wilson, Managing Director of FDA, praised the organizers and said upon the completion of forestry reform sector, Liberians will benefit immensely from commercial forestry, conservation and community forestry.