9 July 2019

Liberia: 'No Hope Dashed'

-Community Residents Assert

Residents of Kpalan Town have denied Media Report of their hope been dashed. Residents of the remote Village near the Lake Piso Community in the Commonwealth District of Grand Cape Mount County have denied media report that their hope has been dashed by the Community Development Initiative (CDI) implementing the Deforestation and Forest Degradation or REDD+ program in the county.

A local daily recently quoted Madam Patricia Sambola, Community Facilitator of CDI and other residents as saying, "yes we dashed the hopes of the people in Kpalan Town when we stopped working with them."

Speaking Tuesday June 26, 2019 in an interview in Kpalan Town, Grand Cape Mount County, Madam Sambola said the report is far from the truth and that CDI did not promise residents of Kpalan Town Cassava mill, Microloan, and livestock program, but rather a recommendation from the inhabitants.

"That is far away from the reality, far away from the truth, our institution is doing awareness on climate change and deforestation, we are only conducting awareness in Lake Piso and the Gola Forest," she explained.

"We came to create awareness and we told them the effect of deforestation, the effect of cutting the mangroves, the effect of killing wildlife, and the effect of climate change, and educate them on how to take care and protect these things for the future generation to benefits," she added.

According to her, after explaining these things to them, a question was asked by the Town Chief David Davis that what would be their benefit if they stop? She added "we told them to decide as community as to what they want and it would be reported to REDD+ through CDI."

Madam Sambola said the residents of Kpalan Town recommended Cassava mill, Microloan, and livestock program and capacity building for community dwellers in the area, but not agreed as reported in the media.

She said the recommendations were presented to CDI to be submitted to REDD+.

According to Madam Sambola, the project in the local community has three phases or components including awareness as phase one which is currently on going beginning with the need assessment, phase two capacity building which has not started yet and phase three monitoring and evaluation.

She noted that phase one started in June to September of 2017 beginning with the need assessment during their first visit in the community and the second was awareness with basic focus on climate change and deforestation.

"Finally, it is not to my knowledge for me to say we dash the hopes of residents in Kpalan town, some time ago, I could remember a guy called me and asked me; is this Patricia Sambola, a Community Facilitator working on the project of REDD+ through CDI? and I said yes, he said how many communities you are working in, and I named the communities and he said ok we are coming to conduct an interview please tell your people to be around for the interview, it was all I did not see anyone who talked to me face to face, I am surprise of such information," she concluded.

Speaking to reporter, the Town Chief of Kpalan Town David Davis also rubbished the report noting that CDI did not promise them Cassava mill, Microloan, and livestock program as reported, but rather it was their recommendations to REDD+ through CDI the local partners if they should stop.

"We saw CDI, they came here and conducted workshop with us , workshop on two occasions, but the two meetings were about how to take care of our forest, wildlife and water life, mainly on how we can take good care and to protect them for the future because when we damage the water and forest and wildlife, it will affect the future and them after the meeting we gathered as a community that if we agree to stop what they are telling us, what will be our benefit, and how we recommended these things," David Davis said.

Town Chief David added "They made us to understand that if we stop these things, they could lobby with their partners and find something for us to do, and it was based on this that we started a Cassava farm as a community for survival and stop these things that will affect the future of our community."

Meanwhile, Emmanuel Sherman, Secretary General of a local group (OMULOU) in Vah mean "We Agree" a local group established by the Community through CDI with the purpose of checking on the activities said it is a great initiative to have local communities participating in the Sustainable Forest Management and Conversation.

"We told CDI that in protecting the forest, water and Wildlife, we told them that this is the only means we have for survival in this town, we live on fishing in the Lake Piso community, cut mangroves and used it to smolder fish, we hunt and other, but how we will manage, you are now telling us to stop, if we should stop what next, it was how after the meeting we recommended mainly loans for our women and capacity building for the youth in the community among others" he said.

When contacted, the Project Supervisor of CDI, Thompson Keyta said the information or the report is false and misleading; noting that at no time did the institution promise microloans, Cassava mill and livestock program.

"CDI does not provide livestock program for any town or community, we provide awareness and that were conducted by us and we explained to them how to safeguard their lake, forest for the future. CDI is not in Cape Mount to give any town sustainable things or livelihood, we are not in the business of that," he noted.

He further said "We do not have anything to give because we are only engaged in creating awareness."

In 2014, Liberia and Norway signed a US$150Million REDD+ agreement to mitigate the effect of climate change with the goal of helping to contribute to the effectiveness of local forest monitoring systems and increase ownership and sustainability. However, the protected area law of 2017, it is illegal to enter, farm and hunt in a protected area across Liberia, but the law has reportedly been violated on several occasions by individuals without punishment by the Forestry Development Authority or FDA.

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