Liberia: Female Expert Outlines Achievements, Challenges in Liberia's Forestry Sector

Hundreds of angry women from various women and youth groups of Liberia took to the streets of Monrovia in protest of the rape amendment bill recently by the Senate.

A natural resource expert, specifically in the forest sector, says a lot of progress is being made in the country's forest sector, but said the challenges are still enormous and need solution.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with this paper via mobile phone at the weekend, the Executive Director of the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), Madam Norah Bowier, said though the sector is far ahead of other sectors in terms of reforms, she reckoned that much needs to be done especially in the area of forest governance.

SDI works to transform decision-making processes of natural resource management so the benefits are shared equally. SDI's work aims to create space for the participation of local communities in decision making processes on natural resources.

She said while there are good laws on book in the management of the forest, the implementation of these laws remains a stumbling block due to perhaps inadequate logistical resources by the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and or the lack of political will from national government.

"On a larger skill, the forest sector has made a lot of progress when compared to other sectors. And I think the other sectors need to emulate the good examples of the forest sector. Notwithstanding, there have also been some serious challenges. There are issues around the implementation of the laws, lack of political will from the end of the government; there are issues around civil society collaboration and cooperation; there are issues of gender participation at the community level, where women have not been into key decision making position and so on," said the SDI boss.

"We still feel that the laws have been weakened or watered down and this has affected revenue generation in the forest sector. In addition to that, the affected communities supposed to receive some financial benefits, but these have been stalled at the government level. The government has a huge arrear for people within the different forest communities. There are promises by concessionaires that are not being fulfilled because some of these agreements are not clear and as such, serious amendments are needed. This has to some extent led to series of conflicts between concessionaires and the people," Norah asserted.

Asked about the involvement of SDI in further reform, Norah stated: Our engagement has been to provide policy recommendation for reform. We do engage with the concession companies as well as the people in forest communities; we have been able to work with different stakeholders in the sector and we have been able to contribute to policy works."

"We have also been able to expose ills in the sector and we have structured communities to engage. We have trained members of forest communities to be knowledgeable of their own roles and responsibilities and to be more independent," the SDI head added.

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