Liberia: Rural Communities Lack Managerial, Political Capacity

By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor

Liberia’s Labour Minister NetoZaraZarLighe says many rural communities still lack managerial and political capacity to handle complicated legal agreements that are prerequisites to the implementation of the Community Rights Law.

Minister Lighe indicated this means that the onus rest on all – government, civil society and community based organizations to ensure forest communities maintain peace and harmony and at the same time augment their capacity to manage the resources emanating from these agreements.

He said it has been challenging for a communitythat saw forest and land as a natural attachment, only to standby helplessly as its natural shrines, traditional forests, and most importantly precious trees, being cut down and shipped to unknown lands, noting in some cases the community had little voice in the processes and little benefits from entire exploitation of timber from its forest.

Launching the “Annual Outreach Campaign on Community Forestry” styled “Make Community Rights Law Real” organized by the Forestry Development Authority, the Labour boss said communities must be empowered to have the organizational capacity, technical and managerial skills as well as insight into the legal complexities that make up various agreements.

But he said this also means 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 is very possible. According to him, in such a situation, 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, he added.

Mr. Lighesaid in achieving this end, Government must continue to fetter the ground to attract investment opportunities in the sector that will mesh the existing competing needs of the massive rural dependent on the forest and providing more employment opportunities for the community.

“So today as we launch the annual outreach campaign on community forestry with the theme “Make Community Forestry Rights Real”, we call on all key stakeholders in the enforcement of the Community Rights Law to re-invigorate their resolve in making sure that the Law is implemented and the benefits, that are anticipated to be far-reaching, are accrued by the community and by extension the country.”

Source: ALL AFRICA