To build on previous investments in the forestry and agricultural sectors, particularly the Land Rights and Community Forestry Program (2007-2011) and the Liberia Forestry Support Program (2011-2012), USAID contracted Tetra Tech ARD in May 2012 to implement a new, five-year program (2012-2017) entitled People, Rules and Organizations Supporting the Protection of Ecosystem Resources (PROSPER). The overall goal of the program is to introduce, operationalize, and refine appropriate models for community management of forest resources for local self-governance and enterprise development in targeted areas of the country. The three primary objectives of the program are:
- Expand educational and institutional capacity to improve environmental awareness, natural resource management, biodiversity conservation, and environmental compliance;
- Improve community-based forest management leading to more sustainable practices and reduced threats to biodiversity in target areas;
- Enhance community-based livelihoods derived from sustainable forest-based and agriculture-based enterprises in target areas.
This third quarterly report presents the activities undertaken and results obtained during the period from January 1 through March 31, 2013. Individual monthly progress reports were also prepared for USAID.
As the report sections that follow reveal, January through March was a period of intense activity across all three program components and in all of the PROSPER sites. This included a number of outreach and awareness activities the program’s seven “new” sites that were designed to reinforce PROSPER staff and community understanding of community forestry, the Community Rights Law, and the procedures required to establish community assemblies and management bodies. Stakeholder consultations enabled PROSPER to solicit the views of different local actors on their interest in engaging in community forestry and to identify potential forest lands. Related livelihood activities included preparation for farmer field school (FFS) activities, and support to BOTPAL in accessing revolving funds and equipment for the 2013 Griffonia campaign.
In the mature PROSPER sites in northern Nimba, implementation of the management plan continued through support to the CFMB and Forest Guards to implement community-generated rules, introduce the permit system, and resolve boundary and farming issues in the Gba community forest.
The larger context in which PROSPER operates remained troubled in the 2nd Quarter. Rural communities throughout the country struggled to protect their natural resources and to negotiate and/or enforce social agreements under mounting pressure from well-funded mining, agricultural and timber interests – with little support from responsible Government institutions. A sudden surge in applications to the FDA to establish authorized community forests confirmed the prediction of many observers that logging companies would exploit this mechanism to gain access to Liberia’s forests after the “back door” provided by Private Use Permits had been slammed shut in January.
PROSPER devoted a significant amount of attention and energy in the 2nd Quarter to advising and advocating for partner communities on land and forest management issues arising from permits or concessions awarded to private companies on their territory, or from proposed partnerships with private interests. This included an iron ore exploration permit allegedly issued to Mount Bele Resources on Bleih Community Forest land and a permit to process iron ore tailings in the southwestern portion of the Barcoline community. In March, PROSPER and the FDA staff were mobilized at the request of certain members of the Kpogblen Clan in District 4 (Grand Bassa) to deal with an attempted “hijacking” of the community forest process underway in that community. PROSPER advised the community to resist pressure from a national legislator to sign an agreement that would hand logging rights over to a timber company (LTTC) of ill repute once their community forest management agreement is authorized. During the quarter, PROSPER took part in ongoing discussions concerning management of the East Nimba Nature Reserve, and supported the full participation of CFMB representatives from the Zor, Gba, and Bleih community forests in that process.
During the quarter, PROSPER provided information to the GOL and its partners on land and forest management issues encountered on the ground in program-supported communities. PROSPER’s DCOP reported to the CFWG in January on the surge in demand for community forests following the moratorium on PUPs, and made a presentation to the Forestry sector donor working group in late March. Information was shared with representatives from the Land Commission, Global Witness and the United Nations Sanctions Monitoring Committee representative.
No new contract deliverables were due during the second quarter of FY 2013 (Jan.-Mar. 2013). One contract deliverable due in the first quarter of FY 2013 was submitted for USAID review and approval:
- Biodiversity assessments completed for new sites (#24)
Another deliverable, due in Q3, was submitted ahead of schedule:
- Community forestry curriculum elements identified and teachers training needs assessment and curriculum review (Deliverable 7)
Three other contract deliverables due in the first quarter of FY 2013 underwent substantial development or revision during the second quarter but remain outstanding:
- Sector surveys and analyses for selected forestry and agricultural value chains (#2)
- Report summarizing findings of review of formal primary school curriculum, adult literacy curriculum, and non-formal education materials, and identifying opportunities to integrate environmental themes (#26)
- First outreach campaign launched to improve public awareness of natural resource and environmental management issues (#28)
Contract deliverables to be completed in the third quarter of FY 2013:
- Environmental curriculum materials field tested with MOE staff, other USAID implementing partners, teachers and primary school students in schools in target sites (#3)
- Public outreach and awareness building approaches field-tested with relevant GOL agencies, target communities, and other identified stakeholders along the themes of sustainable natural resources management, land tenure and property rights, environmental compliance, and community-based forest management (#5)
- Series of brochures, radio programs, community theater and video products developed to educate the Liberian public in community forest development, land tenure and property rights, and environmental awareness (#11)
Pending USAID approval, the following deliverables due (by contract) during the 3rd Quarter will be completed during the 4th Quarter to allow PROSPER to take better advantage of May and June (to forge ahead with field work), while reserving the preparation of handbooks and legal reviews until July-September when heavy rains will favor such “indoor work”.
- Community Forest Management Handbook that outlines the development, registration, operations and management of community forests is revised/developed, provided to communities and to other partner organizations, and used by stakeholders (#12)
- Biodiversity Monitoring Handbook for Community Forest Managers is revised/developed and available for communities and their partners (#13)
- Draft of laws, regulations or policies for enactment by necessary GOL legal authorities in support of secure land tenure and property rights for communities in forested areas are developed /revised and disseminated in collaboration with stakeholders (#15)
- Year 1 Education Review Workshop with the CDWG to review lessons learned, best practices, and to assess the formal, adult education and non-formal curricula are revised and tested (#27)