PROSPER Quarterly Report: June – September 2012

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 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:

  1. Expand educational and institutional capacity to improve environmental awareness, natural resource management, biodiversity conservation, and environmental compliance;
  2. Improve community-based forest management leading to more sustainable practices and reduced threats to biodiversity in target areas;
  3. Enhance community-based livelihoods derived from sustainable forest-based and agriculture-based enterprises in target areas.

Tetra Tech, charged by USAID with ensuring a seamless transition with LFSP (ending May 31, 2012), moved swiftly in late May and early June to install its team and launch operations. By June 1, the core technical and administrative team was in place, including 10 host country staff and expatriate Chief of Party, Deputy Chief of Party/Component 2 Leader, and Component 1 Leader. Tetra Tech took over the lease on the Liberia Forestry Support Program (LFSP) field office in northern Nimba and maintained the staff, allowing support of the three community forestry sites in Nimba to continue without interruption. Preliminary assessments of potential new sites in target counties were initiated in early June. From June 18-20, PROSPER organized an Inception Workshop for project staff, implementing partners, and key government and civil society stakeholders that resulted in the definition of a work plan, approved by USAID, covering the four-month “mobilization period” (June-September 2012).

This first quarterly report presents the activities undertaken and results obtained during the four-month mobilization period. Individual monthly progress reports were also prepared for USAID.

As the report sections that follow reveal, June-September was a period of intense preparation and initiation of activities including several important cross-cutting activities (site selection, gender assessment, performance monitoring plan development and work planning). Throughout the period, PROSPER worked with the community forest management bodies (CFMBs) and partners in its “inherited” sites in Northern Nimba (the Zor, Gba, and Bleih community forests) and the East Nimba Nature Reserve (ENNR) to consolidate and deepen results achieved under Land Rights and Community Forestry Program (LRCFP) and LFSP. Subcontracts signed in June with PROSPER’s three national subcontractors (CJPS, NAEAL, and AGRHA) allowed all three to field staff to Northern Nimba (AGRHA, 3 staff beginning in July; CJPS and NAEAL, 2 staff each, beginning in August. In September, following USAID’s approval of seven new proposed work sites, PROSPER team members took to the field to inform the communities of their selection and to initiate community profiling. In parallel, with the support of subcontractors Fauna and Flora International (FFI), ASNAPP, and Rutgers University, PROSPER also launched biodiversity assessments, ethno-botanical surveys, and value chain analyses in the new sites.

As noted in the Component Work Plans section, the major activities and results assigned to the Education and Outreach, Community Forestry, and Livelihoods components under the mobilization plan were largely completed. A notable exception concerned PROSPER’s planned support to the Forestry Training Institute to conduct a gap analysis of the curriculum (Activity 1.3). Stretched too thin by other demands in August and September, the Component 1 team deferred this task to the first quarter of FY 2013. A planned consultation with the Land Commission, Governance Commission and Forestry Development Authority (FDA) to develop a review process to facilitate the lifting of the moratorium on Community Forest Management Agreements (Activity 2.3) was also deferred due to the crisis that enveloped the FDA concerning private use permits (PUPs).

Throughout the June-September period, the work of PROSPER’s technical team was supported and complemented by the program’s administrative and financial unit which oversaw the recruitment of new staff, the identification and setting up of PROSPER’s permanent office, the contracting of various service providers, the procurement, registration and insuring of vehicles, the purchase and installation of furniture and IT equipment, and numerous other administrative and logistical tasks associated with the start-up of a major program.

PROSPER’s mobilization period coincided with the eruption of a serious crisis in the forestry sector. Revelations concerning the FDA’s issuance of private use permits for timber exploitation on more than 2 million ha of forestland sparked an outcry led by civil society organizations that has been widely reported by the national and international press. That outcry resulted in a temporary moratorium on logging operations under inactive PUPs, Senate hearings on the issue, the suspension of the FDA Managing Director, and the appointment by the President of an independent investigative panel that is currently examining procedural and substantive legal issues related to the issuance and applicability of the PUPs. At the time of this report, however, logging operations under active PUPs have resumed (by Supreme Court order), and no matter what the investigative panel concludes, the FDA’s exploitation of this “back door” alternative to authorize logging and the failure of the Senate and Supreme Court to condemn it, has cast considerable doubt on the Government’s commitment to the reforms enacted since 2007 aimed at improving governance of Liberia’s forest resources and promoting equitable benefits for forest communities. The sustainability of PROSPER’s efforts to broaden and strengthen community forestry in Liberia will be conditioned to a great extent by the way the Government of Liberia (GoL) responds to the present crisis.

Deliverables Summary:

The following contract deliverables were completed during the Mobilization Period:

  • Gender assessment identifying challenges and opportunities for improving participation and benefits of women in specific PROSPER activities and outlining proposed strategies (#22)
  • Site selection report presenting seven recommended work sites in up to four landscapes (#23)
  • Curriculum Development Working Group (CDWG) constituted comprising representatives from the public, NGO, Private sector, and USAID Education programs, to contribute to review and development of formal and non-formal curriculum (#25)

Deliverables to be completed in the first quarter of FY 2013 are:

  • 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)
  • Initial assessment prepared of the viability of two Payments For Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes (#30)
  • Baseline surveys, gender integration plan, and M&E systems established for each target county (#1)
  • Sector surveys and analyses for selected forestry and agricultural value chains (#2)
  • Biodiversity assessments completed for new sites (#24)
  • First outreach campaign launched to improve public awareness of natural resource and environmental management issues (#28)