13 August 2012

Liberia: Several Recommendations Advanced for Good Redd Policy

Photo: Boakai Fofana/allAfrica
A field recently cleared of forest in western Liberia to make way for a plantation.

River Cess County — Several civil society groups and local community from across nine counties have called on the Government of Liberia (GOL) to institute a REDD program that would ensure the provision of community benefits such as funding for development initiatives. REDD stands for Reduce Emission from Deforestation and forest Degradation.

According to them, there are concerns that the promise of these funds could attract powerful elites, and exclude indigenous or rural people. The group's call was contained in a resolution adopted following a five-day long workshop in Yarpa Town, River Cess County.

The workshop, which covered several topics in the areas of Global Positioning System (GPS), bush hunting regulations, pit sawing regulation, climate change amongst others was held at the Yarpa Town Hall Central River Cess District, River Cess County. Liberia is a REDD country participant in the World Bank's Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and has expressed willingness to prepare and implement a Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP)

The R-PP summarizes the activities that would need to be undertaken to make the country 'ready' to participate in REDD. The REDD Technical Working Group in Liberia has begun planning the REDD readiness process with considerable technical support particularly from Conservation International (CI) and Fauna and Flora International (FFI).

The Liberian annual rate of deforestation is currently estimated to be approximately12,000 hectares (0.3 percent), while the recorded planting of new forests since 1971 to date has amounted to only approximately 11,000 hectares in total. The civil society and local community group pointed out that REDD will be successful only if it is undertaken with wide-ranging support from Liberians, particularly forest-dwelling communities.

Hear the group: "In order to provide meaningful response about whether to undertake a REDD program, Liberians must learn about the prize and peril of REDD. While the Government of Liberia has a legal responsibility to its international partners to consider whether development of a REDD program offers benefits beyond its current forest management system, the most important consideration is whether the Liberian public chooses to undertake REDD."

"We therefore, recommend the following: (1) there must be transparent and effective national forest governance structures, (2) there must be Respect for the knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, (3) there must be the full and effective participation of all relevant stakeholders, specifically affected local communities and (4) there must be Conservation of natural forests and biological diversity," the group amongst other things added.

Meanwhile, Liberia has been reeling from a scandal that came to light sometimes ago involving a UK-based carbon trading company and allegations that the company bribed Liberian officials to secure a forest carbon contract.

The proposed deal was between the Liberian government and Carbon Harvesting Corporation (CHC). CHC sought a 400,000-hectare forest concession, or one fifth of Liberia's forests, from which to sell carbon credits. One news report explained that this deal could have bankrupted Liberia, which is still recovering from years of violent civil war.

According to The Guardian, a British based newspaper, not only was the contract based on flawed and exaggerated emissions estimates, but under the contract, if Liberia's forests had failed to deliver the full estimated number of carbon credits, based on a minimum target price of around $13.5 per tonne of CO2, it could have been liable to make up the difference to a maximum of $2.2bn.

The West African country has had an estimated Growth Domestic Product (GDP) last year of $1.6bn, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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