Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), the Liberian charter of Friends of the Earth, the world's largest grassroots environmental network, has launched a campaign against the purported exercise of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) aimed at allowing the sale and export of timber from oil palm concessions in Liberia.
According to reports, Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL), a palm oil company which holds hundreds of thousands hectares of land as an agricultural concession is requesting the FDA to permit logging for export within its concession. Addressing the official launch of the campaign on conversion timber, the program manager of the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), James Otto, warned that permitting the sale and export of timber from oil palm concessions will mean the end of many forests. “The government permit of the sale of timber from the legal clearing of forest for oil palm concessions simplifies the laundering of illegal timber and dramatically increases the pressure on Liberia’s forests,” Otto stated. Also making remarks, SDI Coordinator Nora G. Bowier emphasized that there are mounting concerns of emerging threats to the forest sector through the conversion timber initiative. Madam Bowier lamented that there is a need for compliance with the concession laws of Liberia, noting: “we strongly oppose the clearing of trees in primary forest by concession companies”. She stated that the remaining forest stock of Liberia will be swept away if conversion timber is accepted by the Forestry Development Authority (FDA). “We want a natural resource sector that is managed in a sustainable way that benefits everyone including the future generation,” she said, adding, “We want to ensure a break from the past of old forest management and keep the principal of sustainable forest management. Our task as an institution is to support the government to make this goal possible.” In response to the petition, FDA Communication Director Antony Vawen clarified that the FDA will not develop a regulation or give a permit for conversion timber exercise. Vawen stressed that the FDA remains firmly committed to the mandate of the national forest policy of Liberia to sustainably manage Liberia’s forest resources. He intoned that the FDA wishes to state that companies engaging in oil palm business in Liberia have signed up to the roundtable for sustainable oil palm and the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 which forbids the cutting down of natural forest particularly high conservation value and high carbon stock for oil palm plantation. “FDA assures all forest stakeholders and the nation as a whole that we will, where need be, develop particularly appropriate regulations within the confines of the laws of Liberia to guide the implementation of forest activities and ventures in Liberia, all of which shall be within the ambit of our international commitments and fully guided by sustainability principles,” he said. “We remain committed to working with all stakeholders in the forest sector including the SDI to ensure sustainable forest sector including the SDI to ensure a sustainable forest management in Liberia”, he averred.