3rd Forest Governance Forum, Liberia 2012

This 3rd Forest Governance Forum took place from 1-2 May 2012 in Monrovia, Liberia.

In March 2009, the Government of Liberia (GoL) and the European Union (EU) began negotiations for a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on timber and timber products. The VPA aims to improve forest governance in the country and will establish a licensing system that will provide assurance that timber is produced in accordance with Liberian law. The process to develop the VPA brought together government officials, civil society organisations, members of the private sector and community representatives. VPA negotiations were concluded at an initialling ceremony in Monrovia on 9th May 2011. The VPA has been ratified by the EU and the ratification process is currently underway in Liberia. Early stages of VPA implementation have begun and the first VPA/FLEGT licences are expected to be issued in 2014.

To contribute toward effective implementation of VPAs in West and Central Africa, The University of Wolverhampton, UK and its partners are implementing the “Strengthening African Forest Governance” project with funding from the EU and DFID. The objective of the project is to strengthen the capacity of stakeholders from civil society, private sector, forest-dependent communities & academia in order to widen effective participation in FLEGT/VPA processes in four African countries (Liberia, Ghana, Cameroon and DRC).

Liberia FGF
Liberia FGF

As part of this project theIDLgroup organised the third Forest Governance Forum (FGF) at PA Ribhouse, Monrovia on 1 & 2 May 2012 following successful events in 2011 in Accra and Yaoundé. The Forum is inspired by the illegal logging stakeholder update meetings held biannually at Chatham House in London, and is designed to create an in-country space for discussion and open exchange of ideas, experience and research. Guest speakers were selected at national, regional and international levels and presented on a broad range of topics including FLEGT/VPA, the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR), US Lacey Act, monitoring forest governance, regulating the domestic market and REDD+. The forum was attended by around 100 participants from Africa, Europe and the USA.

The forum was officially launched with opening remarks from the Forestry Development Authority Managing Director Hon. Moses Wogbeh, Hon. Thomas Sellu of the Ministry of Commerce, Carlos Battaglini representing the EU Delegation to Liberia and Richard Nyirenda of the University of Wolverhampton. The event was structured around six sessions. Each session included two to four presentations followed by one hour of questions and discussion.

During the forum, participants identified the following as some of the major challenges they see in improving forest governance in Liberia:

  • Lack of clear land tenure to underpin sustainable forest management (SFM) and to encourage afforestation practices.
  • Insufficient capacity of the Forest Development Authority to carry out activities such as forest governance monitoring and enforcement.
  • Confusion around the amount of taxes owed by logging companies particularly relating to bid premiums.
  • Lack of clear forest zoning planning to balance competing land use practices such as agricultural land extension and mining.
  • Need for greater awareness-building and outreach regarding potential new initiatives such as REDD+.
  • Controversial allocation of forest use licences, particularly private use permits (PUPs).
  • Concern about under-utilization of lesser known species leading to highly selective logging practices – market demand focuses largely on the two best known commercial timber species.
  • Need to raise capacity among communities, particularly the Community Forestry Development Committees (CFDCs) to improve management of benefits from forests.

Summary Report

Other Key Documents

Presentations

First Session: Update on regional and international FLEGT initiatives

Chair: John Woods, University of Liberia

This session highlighted the importance of FLEGT VPAs for the fight against illegal logging, strengthening regulation of the market and poverty alleviation. All stakeholders including communities and government have been satisfied with the participatory nature of the VPA process. Local communities actively took part in the debate and voiced their concerns. FLEGT VPA contributes to SFM by enforcing compliance to regulations and therefore regulating resource extraction. However other drivers of deforestation need to be tackled to ensure the forest resource is managed sustainably, including issues such as land conversion for agricultural plantations, mining in forest rich areas, and customary and formal land tenure code.

Second Session: Ensuring communities benefit

Chair: Jennifer Talbot, USAID Liberia

Commercial rights to timber resources are granted through a number of contract and permit types, including Private Use Permits (PUPs), Timber Sale Contracts (TSC) and Forest Management Contracts (FMC). It is widely recognised that great progress has been made with regards to forest benefit sharing with local communities in the National Forest Reform Law (2006), but implementation of these provisions remains a challenge. There is significant controversy around PUPs, which are not subject to the same provisions regarding how benefits are attributed. The setting-up of CFDCs to receive and manage forest benefits due to communities is an innovative approach. However, there is a need to strengthen the capacities of these CFDCs to effectively manage these benefits. USAID has made a commitment to provide assistance to the Benefit Sharing Trust.

Third Session: Emerging opportunities in forest governance

Chair: Kula Jackson, NGO Coalition

REDD+ is viewed as an emerging opportunity to reduce deforestation while providing livelihood opportunities. However, there are a number of challenges which impede this potential which need to be overcome. This includes the lack of awareness amongst local communities of the opportunities offered by REDD+ and the non-existence of a pro-poor benefit sharing mechanism for REDD+ or carbon finance, which could motivate marginalised groups. There is a need to sensitise all stakeholders on REDD+ especially local communities who are dependent on the forests for their livelihoods.

Fourth Session: International Market Changes

Chair: John Deah, Liberia Timber Association

In discussions following the three presentations, participants of the forum raised three main concerns relating to commercial timber production in Liberia. These were: (1) the need for promotion of less used timber species, not currently demanded by EU markets, (2) alleged irregularities in the allocation of the forest permits, especially PUPs and (3) confusion around bid premiums and the fiscal framework being applied to current concessions. Participants, especially local NGOs and advocacy groups, raised concerns about unsustainable forest management, as the extent of forests under PUPs (about 2,300,000 ha) is two times greater than FMCs under the SFM regime and there is currently no requirement for PUPs to be sustainably managed or maintained as permanent forest cover.

Fifth Session: Second Session: Monitoring Forest Governance

Chair: Julie Weah, Foundation for Community Initiatives

Evaluating forest governance initiatives are difficult without a clear and sound monitoring system in place. This has brought the World Bank (PROFOR) and WRI to develop generic indicators of forest governance which are being adapted at national levels. In the Liberian context, forest governance monitoring is mainstreamed in FDA with support of CSOs but is faced with issues of lack of capacity, and the need for further baseline studies and community representation in monitoring activities.

Sixth Session: Strengthening regulation in the domestic market

Chair: William Woods, Forestry Training Institute

The domestic timber market in Liberia is expanding rapidly. The market is mainly fed by a growing chainsaw logging sector which has recently been regulated. However, experiences with chainsaw milling is Ghana have not been encouraging (low processing rate and poor monitoring). Participants felt that Liberia should draw some lessons learned by conducting studies and setting up safeguards and guidelines for effective implementation of chainsaw milling (such as capacity building and training, impact assessment studies, value chain investigations, improvement in processing techniques, recycling techniques of waste timber, regular control of activities).