As residents celebrate benefits of forest resources
Residents of several towns in Salayea District, Lofa County, were seen in wild celebration last week as major community projects were dedicated.
The projects include two guest houses, a teachers' lodge, a market hall and a zinc project targeting vulnerable residents of the 10 communities in the two districts affected by a logging contract.
The five projects cost US$129,373.85, according to the committee. The residents were excited that many of them can in their life times, see their communities benefiting from resources from their forests.
The projects were constructed under the auspices of the Community Forestry Development Committee (CFDC) under the Forestry Management Contract (FMC-A, Lofa County).
The CFDC Chairman Augustus Kwalah, who spoke at the official dedicatory ceremony recently in Ganglota, Salayea District, described the dedication of the projects as "a dawning of a new day for the communities. "We are glad that our people are now benefiting from their natural resources," Kwalah said.
Lofa's CFDC have been undertaking a lot of project. By evaluations of projects under the land rental fees, the CFDC has received the highest funding from the National Community Benefit Sharing Trust Board (NCBSTB). The Lofa CFDC has also implemented the highest number of projects in the entire country under the land rental fees.
Theses committee, Kwalah said, had since embarked on teachers' residence in Ganglonta at the value of L$2.7 million (US$17,310.00 at the rate of 160); a guest house constructed in Gorlu US$17800, another guest house constructed in Beyan Town (US$17800); a market hall in Gbongay Town at the cost of US$17491.00, and a zinc project for vulnerable homes in four of the ten affected communities costing US$58972.00.
Of the five projects, the Teachers' Residence and the Guest House in Gorlu were dedicated, while the rest, though completed, were slated for another date. Total cost of the five projects amounted to US$129373, the CFDC president said.
"We want to make it very clear that these projects were finance by money that the company paid for land rental fees. Forest Management Contract (FMC-A, Lofa), Kwalah said.
"Let us now celebrate that at least from our forest resources we can now see projects that are being done by the CFDC as it is required in the forest reform law."
Communities' right to forestlands and benefits from forest resources is a pillar of the forestry reform process that began in 2005. The National Forestry Reform Law of 2006 mandates logging companies pay communities directly cubic meter fees, and land rental fees via the NCBTB with the Forestry Development Authority (FDA).
The National President of the CFDC, Vincent Doe, said projects that are being constructed across the country financed by rental fees are as a result of the national reform policy--a document that gives communities and broader rights over their forest and opportunities to benefit from resources.
Doe said the national body will continue to work with its members in the counties to ensure that the right things are done. The Public Relations Officer of Alpha Logging Company, Samuel Surpuh, said the company will adhere to its quota of the agreement with the communities.
"We can assure you that we will do more together as a family. We promise to abide by the laws contained in the agreement," Surpuh said. The Paramount Chief of Salayea, Matorma Sayon, expressed gratitude that the indigenous are benefiting from their natural resources. "We are glad for what is now happening in our district," she said.
"We did not know these resources belong to us. We could only see the companies hauling our logs but we got nothing from them," Mama Sayon, who is Lofa's first female paramount chief, said. She added that the Lofaians were pleased with the work of the company.
She said residents are happy that their forests are now generating the needed revenues that are financing developments in their district. The CFDC Communications Director, Andrew Y. Zelemen, said that the projects were not selected singlehandedly by an individual or group of individuals, rather through a consultative and competitive selection process.
"All of these projects went through a competitive bidding process. A committee to evaluate quotations was set up in Voinjama, while the County Project management Committee and the County Procurement Unit were fully part of the process. They presided over the review of the quotations and the awarding of the contracts to the implementing companies or contractors," Zelemen said.
He said the Teachers' Residence in Ganglota was constructed by Lidar Liberia Incorporation, a Liberian-owned construction company that is constructing many of the CFDC projects in the county. "Currently, a little over 20 of the CFDC projects across the the country are being done by this company.
The FMC signed with Alpha Logging Company affects ten communities/towns in Kpayarquelleh, Gbonyea, Kpeteryea, Gorlu and Beyan. The rest are Fasawalazu, Kpowansanyea, Gbaquata Ganglota and Barquelleh, which the logging company paid US$2.50 per hectare of the over 119,204 hectares under its control since 2010.