National Forestry Forum brings together forest-dependent communities and the Government of Liberia to improve benefit-sharing from logging


10 - 12 November 2020, Ganta, Liberia

The National Forest Forum has commenced in Ganta, Nimba County, Liberia, under the auspices of the National Benefit Sharing Trust Board (NBSTB), in collaboration with the Liberian Forestry Development Authority.  The three-day event, is centred around the theme “forest resource benefit sharing for sustainable development”, will be attended by members of the NBSTB, the National Union of Community Forestry Development Committees (NUCFDC), the National Union of Community Forest Management Bodies (NUCFMBs), local government and representatives from the Delegation of the European Union (EU) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

On the first two days of the event, a delegation of participants will travel to Lofa, the northernmost county in Liberia where several community forestry projects have been rolled out. The delegation will visit projects implemented by Forest Communities with benefits received so far,  to better understand how projects can help improve the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities, and how members of the NBSTB can ensure that these projects are adequately selected and implemented.  

Discussions during the third day will focus on the legal framework governing benefit-sharing amongst forest communities. Stakeholders will assess the effectiveness of existing benefit-sharing mechanisms, and discuss practices in other natural resource sectors such as agriculture and mining to identify best practices and strategies that can improve current processes in the forest sector. The National Forest Forum will also provide the opportunity to analyse the contribution of Community Forestry Management Agreements to improved governance of forest resources, and to identify further needs for capacity building.

The Forum is a unique and timely opportunity for the NBSTB to exchange information with community leaders and members of Community Forestry Development Committees, to formulate strategies to improve benefit-sharing mechanisms from forest logging, said Andrew Zeleman, Head of Secretariat and National Facilitator of the NUCFDC.

Striving for equitable benefit-sharing from logging activities

Under Liberian law, communities impacted by commercial logging within Timber Sale Contract (TSC) and Forest Management Contract (FMC) areas are entitled to 30 percent of the revenue generated from forest resources through the Land Rental Fees paid by logging companies into the  National Benefit Sharing Trust (NBST). Forest communities, working through a participatory and inclusive manner through Community Forestry Development Committees (CFDCs), can design and submit project proposals for local development initiatives based on the revenue collected through the NBST.

A dedicated Board, the National Benefit Sharing Trust Board, receives and reviews the applications and disburse the funds to the Community Forestry Development Committees (CFDCs). CFDCs have grouped into a National Union (NUCFDCs) to ensure national-scale representation. The Board and the Union have jointly evaluated and monitored over 40 active community projects to date, in order to learn from their experiences and improve the implementation of future projects. This has exposed challenges in both the quality of the proposals submitted and in the execution of the projects, highlighting the need to strengthen the capacity of CFDC members to better formulate and manage projects on behalf of their communities.

The National Forest Forum will also provide the opportunity to analyse the contribution of Community Forestry Management Agreements to improved governance of forest resources, and to identify further needs for capacity building.

This consultative process shows that Liberia remains committed to improving forest management practices to ensure that Forest Communities can reap the benefits of forest logging, in line with national commitments made under Liberia’s Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) stated  Nora Bowier, Chairperson, National Benefit Sharing Trust Board.

To facilitate this process, the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme supported the NUCFDC to produce a  “Management Guide” to assist CFDCs to implement Social Agreements, to manage projects better, as well as to monitor forest operations and production. Crucially, the guide provides tools that CFDCs can use to collect information and report on the community projects they are implementing, and guidance on how to calculate timber yields and land rental fees.

Helping communities to help themselves

Building on the challenges and opportunities identified at the Forum, the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme will support two upcoming projects which will improve the capacity of actors at the local and institutional level to design proposals, monitor and implement projects related to the benefit-sharing mechanism.

The first project, undertaken by the NBSTB, will strengthen the institutional capacity to effectively monitor and evaluate projects awarded to communities through the benefits sharing system. In parallel, the second project, with the NUCFDC, will focus on increasing community-level capacity to design and manage projects benefits from commercial logging in Liberia.

Fostering collaboration between the NBSTB and the NUCFDC is vital to ensuring that forest-dependent communities are able to benefit directly and equitably from forest logging. Discussion of challenges and opportunities on the national stage ensures that future interventions place communities in the best position to benefit from their natural resources.

Conclusions of the three-day meeting will be presented at the next VPA Joint Implementation Committee between Liberia and the European Union, scheduled to take place on 24th November 2020. 

The FAO-EU FLEGT Programme of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations is a global demand-driven initiative that provides technical support and resources for activities that further the goals of the EU’s FLEGT Action Plan. The Programme is funded by the European Union, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom.

Photo: ©CIFOR