Liberian forestry sector emerges after 14 years of conflict and mismanagement
First-ever forestry policy for Liberia
5 October 2006, Rome - Liberia passed a new forestry law last night, opening a new era for the Liberian forestry sector after a long period of mismanagement and exploitation of forest resources to fuel conflict.
The new legislation will allow the implementation of Liberia’s first-ever forestry policy, which FAO helped develop with numerous international partners through the Liberia Forest Initiative.
Between 1989 and 2003, revenue from forests was used to fund armed conflict in Liberia, forcing the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on Liberian timber exports in July 2003 for three years.
When international support to better forest management began in June 2004, the sector was in complete disarray. There was no experienced leadership, a weak understanding of the importance of good governance and no ability to enforce rules and regulations. A distorted concession system that had led to massive fraud also plagued the sector. Tasked with the challenges of reform and rehabilitation, FAO helped draft a forest policy in Liberia together with the World Bank.
“The new forestry policy aims to maximize the benefits from the forestry sector to the Liberian people and put an end to the use of forest resources to fund conflict,” said Adrian Whiteman, an FAO forestry officer who worked on the project. “The Liberian Forestry Development Authority is now in a position to regain authority and control over the forest resources.”
Forest resources in Liberia are important to its economy and amount to 47 percent of its land. In the late 1990s, their contribution to the gross domestic product amounted to about 20 percent and accounted for over 50 percent of the country's export earnings.
Strengths of the new policy
During the civil war years, forest resources and all forest infrastructure were destroyed through indiscriminate logging and widespread illegal trade of forest products, carried out under the protection of private armed militias. The Liberian Forestry Development Authority, the agency overseeing the management of the country’s forest resources, was looted and damaged and lacked the authority to enforce rules and laws.
The new forestry policy should address these problems and bring the Liberian forestry sector back in line with international commitments and standards.
The policy balances the community, conservation and commercial uses of Liberia’s forests to produce a range of goods and services for the benefit of all Liberians. It recognizes the importance of community involvement in forestry, which did not exist before. It emphasizes the importance of good governance. Its objective is to give more equitable access to forest resources to reduce the potential for future conflict. The policy is expected to maximize forestry’s contribution to income, employment, trade and the national development of Liberia.
Rebuilding Liberia’s forestry sector
Together with numerous international partners, FAO is successfully working to develop legitimate Liberian authorities equipped with the staff, skills and means to regain control over forest resources in order to manage them sustainably.
FAO is supporting the collection, analysis and dissemination of information to assist with policy-making and good governance. It will also train future forest operators in good forest harvesting practices together with the US Forest Service and finalize a Liberian forest harvesting code, the first ever in Liberia based on the FAO model code for Africa.
“We plan to continue supporting the Liberian forestry authorities so that their forests may again be used to benefit all Liberians and to alleviate poverty,” Whiteman said.
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