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Affected communities demand forest benefits

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The National Union of Community Forestry Development Committee (NUCFDC) calls on government and partners including the EU, USAID, the World Bank to ensure that communities affected by logging operations in Liberia benefit 30 percent shares of land rental fees paid by logging companies, including land rental arrears owed by companies.The National Union of Community Forestry Development Committee was established 2009 with a mission to ensuring affected communities benefit from their natural resources.

Addressing a news conference Tuesday in Duport Road Community, Paynesville, head of secretariat, Andrew Y.Y. Zelemen said the call is timely and appropriate as the Legislature debates the FY2019-2020 National Budget.

He notes that the NUCFDC represents 23 Community Forestry Development Committees (CFDC) within seven Forest Management Contract (FMC) Areas in nine Counties (Lofa, Gbarpolu, River Cess, Nimba, Grand GedehSinoe, River Gee, Grand Kru and Maryland) and nine Timber Sale Contracts (TSC) Areas in Grand Bassa, Grand Cape Mount and Gbarpolu counties, respectively.

He wants not less than US$2 million placed in the 2019/2020 National Budget for Affected Communities and US$1 milliontransferred to the National Community Benefit Sharing Trust Board by September and the balance US$1,000,000.00 be provided byend of January 2020.
He call on the government to ensure no logging company is granted felling certificate for 2019/2020 until it has fully paid all arrears owed the people of Liberia.

Mr. Zelemen recalls that from 2015 to 2017, the former government provided US$2,622,000.00as part of the arrears owed affected communities from land rental fees collected since 2009.

He says this amount enable communities concerned to initiate and implement over 40 projects, including construction of schools, clinics, vocational training centers, road rehabilitation, guesthouses and community halls, among others.
However, he discloses that since the inception of the Weah administration nearly two years ago, not a cent has been provided to communities through the National Community Benefit Sharing Trust Board.

“Record received from the FDA shows that the Government of Liberia owes community a little over three million United State Dollars excluding past arrears owed by companies and the administration of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf”, says Mr. Zelemen
He stresses that they have raised these issues with the Forestry Development Authority times without number, but the FDA responds that it is not responsible for budget appropriation or allocation.

“Based upon this, we arranged a meeting with the Deputy Minister for Budget at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) on May 29, 2019 at the Minister’s office. During said meeting, the Deputy Minister (Madam Tanneh Brunson) told us that it was better for us to meet the Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs at the Department of Fiscal Affairs in the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.”

Zelemen emphasizes that the NUCFDC alongside the leadership of the National Community Benefit Sharing Trust Board and the NGO Coalition of Liberia wrote a letter to the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, requesting for a meeting with to discuss these issues.
“Like previous attempts made, there has been no respond and all efforts applied to meet authority of the ministry have yielded no positive result.”

He also discloses they took the matter up with the European Union-Liberia Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) stakeholder’s gatherings, including the Joint Implementation Committee (JIC) meetings, the National Multi-stakeholders Committee (NMSMC) meetings; during which time a lot of discussions were held around the issue of community share of the land rental fees.
“Yet still, we have got no redress to our plight despite the involvement of our international partners through consultation at various forestry stakeholders’ meetings”, he notes. Editing by Jonathan Browne

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