Citizens of project communities of the Liberia Forest Sector Project (LFSP) in southeastern Liberia have overwhelmingly extolled the Liberian Government and civil society organizations for implementing the project. The Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), Fauna & Flora International (FFI), Proforest, and IDH jointly implemented the Cluster Approach activities of the Liberia Forest Sector Project (LFSP) in the southeastern cluster through a consultancy with the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) which is implementing the LFSP jointly with five other government entities.
The SDI was focused on Customary Land Formalization (CLF); while the FFI and Proforest focused on Livelihoods Development and Land Use Support to around 70 Cluster Communities in the Southeast Landscape. It was intended to provide alternative livelihoods for communities so as to reduce pressure on the forest and reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation.
The Liberia Forest Sector Project (LFSP) is a US$37.5 million grant-financed project funded by the Government of Norway via a World Bank-managed Trust Fund. Under the LFSP framework, Liberia’s Forestry Development Authority (FDA) conducted livelihood needs assessments including the potential for charcoal production to provide livelihood benefits and improved incomes for forest communities, while incentivizing sustainable management of forest resources.
The Liberia Forest Sector Project came into being through a letter of intent signed between the Governments of Liberia and Norway in 2014, but the actual implementation of the project started in 2016. The objective of the project is to improve the management of forest landscapes and increase benefit sharing for communities. The LFSP is a REDD+ project. REDD+ is Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, plus the sustainable management of forests, and the conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks and it is an essential part of the global efforts to mitigate climate change.
It is also a climate change mitigation mechanism under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for addressing climate change in countries. The Liberia Forest Sector Project is phase two of REDD+ and under phase two, the Liberian Government and partners are making some investments in the landscape. Part of the implementation of the strategies is to build capacities, undertake policy and legal reforms and create an enabling environment to develop capacity, but also to reduce pressure on the forest as a way of reducing emissions.
As part of its obligation on the project, the SDI through its Community Land Protection Program (CLPP)and with technical oversight of the Liberia Land Authority (LLA) intensified efforts in the Customary Land Formalization process. The SDI assisted five of the targeted districts in formalizing their customary land in line with the 2018 Liberia’s Land Rights Act (LRA).
The project was implemented within three counties. They include Grand Gedeh, Sinoe, and RiverGee and have formally brought customary land under control. SDI worked with five communities in the three counties. Three in Sinoe [Jaedae, Shawboe & Dugbe River], RiverGee [Chedepo] and Grand Gedeh [Putu].
During the course of the project, the SDI helped these communities by facilitating Community Self-Identification (CSI), setting up of governance processes including developing community bylaws and Community Land Development Management Committees (CLDMCs), Boundary harmonization and Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping among others.
Speaking to the SDI Bulletin, the National Program Assistant of the Community Land Protection Program (CLPP), Mr. Daniel B. Wehyee lauded all the partners, staff of the SDI, the Liberia Land Authority (LLA), Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and the community members for the successful implementation of the project.
Mr. Wehyee recounted that prior to their arrival in the project communities, the CLDMCs structures were not stable or existing, governance was an issue and women were never brave to even take on leadership in the CLDMCs or discuss issues about land, but said through constant engagements and training, women are now playing key roles in their respective communities by serving as Secretary, Treasurers, chairpersons and even co-chairpersons on the CLDMCs.
He further said the CLDMCs are now taking on initiatives in their communities, making decisions, and they have developed and obtained their bylaws among others.
“Members of the CLDMCs are now involved in terms of their willingness; they are documenting issues, participating in events and other training. Their capacities had been built enough unlike in the past when it was really difficult for them. And they are now providing directions and are drivers of their communities through the involvement of SDI,” Mr. Wehyee said while expressing excitement.
The CLPP deputy boss further said “The IDH and others are now using the CLDMCs to initiate developments like the construction of hand pumps, and other livelihood processes for the communities. Efforts had been made when it comes to boundary harmonization, we have used Geographic Information System (GIS) to resolve conflicts mapping, harmonized conflicts among others.”
On the involvement of women in the CLDMCs, Mr. Wehyee said “One of the greatest successes of this project is women are now occupying positions. They are now discussing land issues with men. The community members are just excited about what we have done for them. Others think that the CLF is simple, but at the community level, it is very difficult.”
Speaking in a jubilant mood, the chairman of the CLDMC in Chedepo in RiverGee County, Augustine K. Dweh thanked the SDI and partners for the education provided to them which according to him is an eye opener.
Dweh said “Right now men are now giving land to their girl children and we have done the CSI, people are doing boundary harmonization among other good things. Women and men are now sitting together and discussing about our land and other community issues. Our activities have now become very inclusive. Men are now giving land to women as property. There are women in leadership like our CLDMC, we have a co-Chairperson and Treasurer as women.”
“Our communities are very pleased and have joined the leadership and whenever we put out a notice for a meeting, community members including women go there and we discuss what we suppose to discuss. I want to say thanks to SDI and all partners for the education which we are enjoying today,” Augustine Dweh, Chairman of the CLDMC in Chedepo, RiverGee County said.
Also speaking, the CLDMC chairperson in Dugbe River, Sinoe County, Madam Mamie R. Freeman said the SDI and partners have helped to make history by allowing women to occupy positions and speak on land issues. Madam Freeman recounted that sitting with men used to be an issue before even talking about land, but said SDI and partners have changed the narratives completely.
Madam Freeman said, “When we called for meetings; women and other community members can really be happy because they have been educated that women have crucial roles to play in their communities and beyond.”
“Before women used to be in the kitchen, but the narrative has changed. Women are now part of decision-making. In the past, women have no access to land owned by their husbands or parents, but the story has changed and SDI and partners really educated us on this. Our entire district is very happy for the knowledge we have acquired,” she said.