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|Ellen Signs Three Logging Contracts-Employment, Development For the Locals|
|Published on May 29, 2009||Email To Friend Print Version
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has signed into law three forest management contracts with three Liberian firms that would provide more employment and development opportunities for citizens and communities in three counties.
At a brief signing ceremony witnessed by House and Senate Committee members on Executive Wednesday at the Foreign Ministry, the President signed into law ‘An act ratifying the forest management contract Area-B in Rivercess County between Liberia, represented by the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and EJ and J Investment Corporation.
According to the Executive Mansion, the President also signed ‘An act ratifying the Forestry Management Contract in Area-A in Lofa and Gbarpolu counties between Liberia, represented by the FDA and the Alpha Logging Woods Processing Inc.; and an act ratifying the management contract Area-C in Rivercess County between Liberia and Liberia Tree and Trading Company Incorporated.
The President’s signing follows the ratifications of the deals by the Liberian legislature, and companies will now need to sign a social contract with these communities – agreeing on terms what development would be carried out in these areas.
The new forest law of Liberia provides benefits and protection for communities in which logging companies operate. Besides taxes they pay to government, it is a must that these companies sign a ‘social contract’ with the people before given these companies are green lights to harvest a cubic meter of log.
This is intended to break from the past when logging and mining companies exploited resources from the counties and left the people there in abject poverty and nothing to show in exchange of the utilization of their natural resources.
Speaking Wednesday after the ceremony, President Johnson Sirleaf commended members of the National Legislature for the pace at which the bills were passed. She welcomed the passage of the forestry bills, noting that they will lead to the creation of much needed jobs in areas of the country in which forest is found.
Revitalizing the forest sector is a major component of the Government Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS), and the Wednesday’s serves as a mile stone in achieving goals in this sector.
Liberia’s PRS articulates the Government’s overall vision and major strategies for moving toward rapid, inclusive and sustainable growth and development during the period 2008-2011.
The PRS is being implemented between April 1, 2008 and June 30, 2011 (the end of the 2010/2011 fiscal year). This period, the government says, is of critical importance as Liberia shifts from post-conflict stabilization to laying the foundation for inclusive and sustainable growth, poverty reduction, and progressing toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The donor-dependent US$1.6bn program is crafted with four major pillars including enhancing Peace and National Security, Governance and the Rule of Law, Economic Revitalization and Rehabilitation of Infrastructures and Delivery of Basic Social Services.
Forest Sector and PRS
The forest sector falls under the third pillar of the PRS: Economic Revitalization. Prior to 2003, the forestry sector was a major contributor to economic growth in Liberia with an average of 7,000 persons employed in the sector.
Total log and timber production per annum peaked at 1 million cubic meters, with a value of approximately US$100 million while Forestry contributed approximately 50 percent of Liberian export earnings and about 20 percent of GDP.
In 2003 the United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on Liberian log and timber exports because of poor governance in the sector and its role in fueling the conflict. The ban was lifted in 2007 after convincing reforms in the sector.
Particular, the Government lacked control over forest areas, revenues were being assigned to individuals rather than Government accounts, human rights abuses were being committed by sector operators, and forest area ownership was often duplicated.
After a legal review of the sector, the new Government declared all timber contracts null and void and instituted reform measures that were accepted by the UNSC and led to the lifting of the sanctions in 2006.
The reform measures included the enactment of a new forest reform law, forest land use planning, forest institutional reforms, and transparent control of timber production through a chain of custody system. The legal framework and the ground rules have now been laid for sustainable forest management and the economic revival of the sector; Timber production is about to started (should have started in 2008) and is expected to steadily increase to a sustainable level by 2012 says the government.
The central goal for forestry over the PRS implementation period is for the sector to become a source of higher incomes for the rural population, ensuring that the benefits are shared equitably, and that adequate environmental and other regulatory safeguards are in place to ensure sustainability.
The FDA during the PRS period hopes to develope commercial forestry, including by encouraging value-added forestry products, to be a significant source of revenue generation and growth for local people, MSMEs, and the nation at large; use community forest management techniques to identify viable economic opportunities for communities from forest resources and providing extension and technical assistance in community forest management; conserve protected and important biologically diverse areas, with an emphasis on providing sustainable livelihoods for communities at the fringes of the forest, and promoting tourism; enhance environmental benefits from forestry reserves through an analysis of potential markets for trading in carbon credits, among others.
Forestry production is projected to grow substantially during the PRS period from 30,000 cubic meters (M3) to more than 1,300,000 M3, with approximately 2.9 million hectares of forest being used for commercial and community forestry and 1.2 million hectares allocated for conservation and tourism. Rural employment in this sector is targeted at 5,000 for the three year PRS period.
Except for the slow pace of active logging activities which should have started in 2008, the Forestry sector has met almost all of its targets during the first year of the PRS implementation, though President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Tuesday announced that the government, as a body, has failed to meet its goals set out for implementation during the first year of the PRS program. Contact: 231 6 586 531; firstname.lastname@example.org