The Executive Director of the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) Madam Norah Bowier, has said that though the forest sector of Liberia is far ahead of other sectors in terms of reforms, but much needs to be done especially, in the area of forest governance.
Speaking in an exclusive interview via mobile phone over the weekend, she said SDI works to transform decision-making processes of natural resource management so the benefits are shared equally with the aim of creating space for the participation of local communities in decision making processes on natural resources.
She continued that while there are good laws on book in the management of the forest, implementation remains a stumbling block due to perhaps inadequate logistical resources by the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and or the lack of political will from national government.
“On a larger skill, the forest sector has made a lot of progress when compared to other sectors. And I think the other sectors need to emulate the good examples of the forest sector. Notwithstanding, there have also been some serious challenges. There are issues around the implementation of the laws, lack of political will from the end of the government; there are issues around civil society collaboration and cooperation; there are issues of gender participation at the community level, where women have not been into key decision making position and so on,” said the SDI boss.
She said the laws seem to have been weakened or watered down and this has affected revenue generation in the forest sector, adding that affected communities supposed to receive some financial benefits, but these have been stalled at the governmental level.
“The government has a huge arrear for people within the different forest communities. There are promises by concessionaires that are not being fulfilled because some of these agreements are not clear and as such, serious amendments are needed. This has to some extent led to series of conflicts between concessionaires and the people,” Norah disclosed.
Asked about the involvement of SDI in further reform, she said engagement has been to provide policy recommendation for reform, saying, “We do engage with the concession companies as well as the people in forest communities; we have been able to work with different stakeholders in the sector and we have been able to contribute to policy works.”
Director Bowier added that SDI has also been able to expose ills in the sector and structured communities to engage, while training members of forest communities to be knowledgeable of their own roles and responsibilities and become more independent.