The forest sector of Liberia has been inundated with controversies mainly resulting from mismanagement and wanton exploitation of community heritage sites across the country.
Against this backdrop, Liberia’s Labour Minister Atty. Neto Z. Lighe is urging all key stakeholders to enforce the Community Rights Law to ensure that the law is implemented for the community and country to benefit. Minister Lighe’s comments were contained in a speech delivered at the launch of an annual outreach campaign on community forest organized by the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) in Monrovia on Wednesday, March 30, 2016. “With the Community Rights Law being a living attestation of the promotion of people’s power through the fostering of a bottom-up approach to development, we will sacrifice justice on the altar of obliviousness when we forget crucial role of partners such as USAID /PROSPER,” he said. The Labour Ministry boss added that in order to enhance communities’ ability to transact business on their own, they must be empowered to have the organizational capacity, the technical and managerial skills as well as an insight into the legal complexities that make up various agreements. According to him, this also means that with the transfer of large amount of powers to the communities, the likelihood for the abuse of such powers by a clique of powerful and influential actors in the community is very possible. In such a situation, he said “an agreement between the community and other key stakeholders for the management of the forest could mean an agreement for the minority; an agreement that marginalizes and segregates against the larger segment of the forest community. So as we argue for the devolution of power to the community in the management of forestry agreements, all stakeholders must increase the tenor of their voices in the call for good governance, transparency and accountability at the community level.” Minister Lighe stressed that in achieving this end, the government of Liberia must continue to foster and attract investment opportunities in the sector to meet the existing competing needs of the massive rural dependent on the forest for livelihood. “The narrative of forest management in Liberia has changed with greater participation of the community through the Community Rights Law. Such are the gains of democracy in Liberia, and upon such foundation, I am unrestrainedly elated to officially launch the ‘Annual Outreach Campaign on Community Forestry’ which is named and styled “Make Community Rights Law Real”,” the Liberian Labour Chief emphasized.