FAO Helps Capacitate Community Forestry Development Committee

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Report by Willie N. Tokpah, [email protected]

Monrovia – United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has signed a US$80,000 agreement with the National Union of Community Forestry Development Committees (NUCFDC) to strengthen the capacity of communities to effectively monitor the benefits of commercial logging in Liberia.

The agreement falls under the framework of the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), signed by the Government of Liberia and the European Union (EU) in 2009.

The VPA is a legally binding bilateral trade agreement between the European Union and timber-producing countries outside the EU, such as Liberia.

It is also meant to ensure that timber and timber products exported to the EU come from legal sources and calls for a halt to illegal logging by timber-exporting countries by improving regulations and governance of the forest sector.

A document from the FAO is quoted as saying, “with funding from the European Union, Swedish Cooperation (SIDA), UK government (UKAid) and through the FAO EU-FLEGT Programme, the agreement seeks to equip affected communities with skills and tools to be able to monitor the benefits they receive through logging to communicate and share information on progress and robustly defend their right under the VPA Legality Assurance System (LAS).”

“Specifically, the agreement is geared towards helping communities acquire skills through a combination of training and peer-mentoring in financial and project management.”

According to UN agency, the arrangement will also provide them with tools and protocols for effectively monitoring the enforcement of social agreements and specific skills in community-level forest monitoring.

It also termed the agreement as a way of enable accountability for the benefits they receive from commercial logging and defend their rights in case of denial.

The 12-month project titled, “Tracking Progress: Strengthening Community Capacity to monitor benefits from commercial logging in Liberia,” is expected to improve the quality and participatory processes in communities by prioritizing the contribution of women and youth across all activities.

The National Facilitator for the National Union of Community Forestry Development Committees, Mr. Andrew Y. Y. Zelemen and FAO Representative in Liberia, Ms. Mariatou Njie signed the agreement on behalf of their respective institutions.

During the signing ceremony on Monday in Monrovia, Mr. Zelemen welcomed the initiative and lauded FAO for addressing the capacity gap in affected communities.

He said the initiative will enabled communities to fulfil their critical role in ensuring that benefit sharing obligations under the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) are fulfilled.

“This agreement will address some of the key challenges of affected communities on how to monitor their social agreement signed with logging companies and monitor the forest in term of production and operations,” Mr. Zelemen said.

He stressed that the new funding from FAO will enhance capacity of communities to monitor production and manage what they received from these companies.

“It will also strengthen the capacity of Community Forestry Development Committees (CFDCs) in forest monitoring skills, reinforce the engagement and influence of non-state actors, and build synergies with activities supported under these related projects,” Mr. Zelemen averred.

For her part, FAO Representative in Liberia, Ms. Mariatou Njie said FAO is committed in supporting the Government of Liberia improve and strengthen the forestry sector.

Madam Njie maintained that the FAO-EU Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Programmed seeks to reduce and eventually eliminate illegal logging.

“The Programme works in support of the European Commission’s Action Plan on FLEGT to promote the legal production and consumption of timber by granting funds to projects, and assisting them at all stages from the original design through to the outcome,” Njie said.

“Decreasing illegal logging contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals by alleviating poverty (SDG 1), ensuring food security (SDG 2), mitigating climate change (SDG 13) and managing forest sustainably (SDG 15).”

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