Monrovia — Atty. Kofi Woods, ex-minister of Public Works says ownership of logging companies by government officials, the Carbon Credit complication and other forms of criminal quest in the country is a curse of resource development and advancement in Liberia.
"The bleeding of our forests must come to an end. I know this is a cliché, but our natural resources must cease being a curse; it must be a blessing," he said.
He spoke at the launch of the NGO coalition of Liberia (NCL) strategy advocacy that comprised of members from selected CSO's of the coalition.
Atty. Woods said the strategy employed should offer the society (the supply chain) and the international community (the demand chain) redemption from years of pillage, plunder and the callous disregard for communities, environment, land use, and forest.
"Our unique species of wildlife, Flora, and Fauna are being destroyed and it is now time to act for the good of posterity," he said.
Atty. Woods furthered that the strategy must help Liberian appreciate the connectivity between human survival, "the use of our forests and our environment in general and the overall impact on climate change and weather patterns not only in Liberia but around the world."
According to him, citizens have failed to realize that the abuse of forest is an abuse on human civilization and the threat to the forests and environment represents a threat to human civilization.
"Studies have shown that forests provide protection against flooding. Therefore, the unabated loss of forests in Liberia due to the illegal logging which has become common may exacerbate the frequency of flood we are currently experiencing."
"It may also increase related disasters with severe negative impact on the environment and inflict havoc on the economy. Sadly, illegal logging without reforestation is bad news for glaring and galloping effects of global warming."
Atty Woods noted that researchers and other forest advocates have warned that "Liberians should not sit reluctantly and wait for their government to take action first,
"but instead every Liberian must begin to create an environmentally conscious culture through research, education and people-centered grassroots initiatives like environmental restoration, ecosystem rehabilitation and planting trees campaign in every community across the country."
He said the forests are of vital importance for the livelihoods for millions of West Africans and provide key ecosystem services of local and global importance.
"Liberia's Upper Guinea forests (about 43-45% of a sub-Saharan forest) are exceptionally diverse, with very high rates of endemism."
According to him, Liberia holds some of the last remaining intact forests in West Africa and so reducing deforestation quickly and efficiently would be important in global climate change mitigation.
On the land rights bill, he said it has affirmed that all land owned and occupied by communities for hundreds of years belong to them and that their ownership is effective upon its passage without regards to whether they have a deed to it or not.
"It says that these communities do no need deed from the Republic, because the Republic never owned their land, and so the Republic does not have ownership that it will transfer to them."
He said the law reaffirms the provisions of the Constitution that the mineral belongs to Liberia but says that the ownership of the surface land belongs to the communities (as to community land) or private individuals (as to private land) and government (as to government land.
The law also says that community land will also be treated equally as private land. These are recent and interesting developments for your advocacy.
A facilitator of NGO coalition of Liberia (NCL), Richard Hoff said Liberia is one of six tropical countries that have ratified and is implementing Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA)'s making sure it develops a system to control, verify and license legal timbers.
He said under the reforms, parties agreed to train community members in how to monitor forest activities and advocates for themselves where applicable.
The NCL facilitator furthered that despite several laws been formulated to improve accountability and transparency in the sector, concession communities continue to experience illegal logging and noncompliance to contracts and social agreements.
The NCL is under the European Union non-state actors project, that seeks to publicize laws, regulations, and agreements on the sector on the sector and to advocate for amendment of some unfavorable laws.
The advocacy will focus on recommendations from NCL core team review a d making available final copies of the social agreement and contracts that are signed between communities and companies.
It will also make clearer cubic meters fees payment protocol and push for the repeal of the law abolishing the 'bid premium law', the forestry industrial development and employment regime act of 2017.
Hoff disclosed that following an investigation 31 recommendations are unaddressed and 10 recommendations for action was submitted.
The advocacy strategy was developed around two of the recommendations for a short term while also campaigning for law suspending the bid premium law.