Liberia: FDA, NGO in First-Ever Partnership over Forest Community

Jonathan Yiah of SDI, Roland Lepol and Gertrude Nyaley of the FDA

DUAZON, MARGIBI – The Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI)—one of the most civil society organizations on forest matters in the country—are collaborating for the first time on a project to build communities’ capacity to manage their own forest. 

The “Capacity Building for Community Forestry Management Body Union” project was signed in August but only launched over the weekend. The FDA is funding SDI to train members of the National Union of Community Forest Management Body (NUCFMB) to in turn train members of the community assembly (CA) and community forestry management body (CFMB). The CA is the highest decision-maker in the community forest governance structure, while the CFMB represents the business interest of the community in logging contracts and other deals. 

Both institutions worked together in the past on similar projects to build communities’ capacity, and awareness of the Community Rights Law (CRL) of 2009 with Respect to Forest Lands. However, but this is the first time that the FDA is directly funding a project SDI is going to implement.  

“We are happy that we are in this partnership,” said Jonathan Yiah, who heads SDI’s forest governance program. “We’ve been having a long history of uneasy relationship with the FDA. For the fact that today we can be partners in supporting the National Union of Community Forestry Body is a very good news.”   

Atty. Gertrude Nyaley, technical manager of the community forestry department of the FDA, however, called on the SDI to maintain its outspokenness and criticality. 

“Let it be at the back of your mind that every mistake will be collective,” Nyaley said. “As you work with us open up your eyes. Be strict, stand strong to correct when there is need to do so, so that we can take the glory together that our country can be a better place,” she said, launching the project alongside Atty. Roland Lepol of FDA’s REDD Implementation Unit (RIU). 

Partners for Development (PADEV), another NGO, is working with FDA on the other component of the project dealing directly with the communities. Lepol called on the two NGOs to collaborate. 

“We encourage the two parties to work more closely to the maximum benefit of the communities,” he said.   

Created to share forest resources with rural communities, the CRL is part of Liberia’s forestry reform. Fast-forward 10 years after the law, communities struggle to understand the law. 

The 15-month project will develop an education program for the NUCFMB to train members of communities’ forest governance structure, feature community learning exchanges and awareness on commercial use contract that will aid communities sign better logging agreements, according to Yiah. 

It is part of activities under the Norway-funded Liberia Forest Sector Project being implemented by REDD. It is part of the specific portion of the project that trains communities to better manage their forest. The overall goal is to ready Liberia for the reduction of its greenhouse gas emission. If that works well, Liberia will now move to the next phase of the REDD program. REDD is a United Nations-run program for global carbon emission reduction. It means reducing, emission of deforestation and forest degradation.