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:
- 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.
Following the completion, in September 2012, of a comprehensive work plan for fiscal year 2013, PROSPER proceeded in the first quarter to implement the ambitious set of activities planned for each of its three components. In the more mature sites inherited from the LRCFP and LFSP programs in northern Nimba, PROSPER focused on implementation of the approved forest management plans through rules development, the introduction of a permit system, and outreach and awareness activities designed with the communities to support implementation. Enterprise development activities included training of Griffonia collectors in sustainable harvesting methods and restructuring of oil palm and cassava producer groups. Farmer Field Schools were also supported through the program while, simultaneously, plans were developed to introduce a more integrated FFS model in the coming year.
At the landscape level, PROSPER participated actively throughout the first quarter in an ongoing debate concerning the viability of the co-management system developed for the East Nimba Nature Reserve, urging the FDA and other members of the Northern Nimba Biodiversity Stakeholders Group to reconsider the ENNR’s status as a strict nature reserve.
In the program’s seven new sites located in Grand Bassa County (2), southern Nimba (4), and northern Nimba (1), PROSPER conducted a number of information-gathering and “entry” activities including community profiling, biodiversity assessment, ethnobotanical and value chain surveys, presentation of the steps for establishing a community forestry, etc. In addition to generating valuable socio-economic and biodiversity data., these introductory activities – planned and carried out in a participatory and collaborative fashion – afforded the PROSPER team and partner communities the opportunity to begin to know each other, and better understand community forestry and the role of PROSPER. Several of the activities provided practical capacity-building opportunities for participating community members, including local authorities, women’s group leaders, NTFP collectors, and hunters. Discussions undertaken with the staff of USAID’s Food and Enterprise Development (FED) program in November and December resulted in the identification of promising opportunities for collaboration on agriculture and forest-based enterprise development in PROSPER’s Tappita and Grand Bassa sites.
This second PROSPER quarterly report presents the activities undertaken and results obtained during the October-December 2012 period. Individual monthly progress reports were also prepared for USAID. As the report sections that follow reveal, PROSPER made notable progress in Component 2 (Community Forestry) and Component 3 (Livelihoods) during the quarter and largely respected its implementation schedule. Nevertheless, the execution of several field activities was hampered by bad weather and poor road conditions, resulting in delays in deliverables, including the final biodiversity assessment; ethnobotanical survey and value chain study. All of these documents are in the final stages of preparation and will be submitted for approval early in the next quarter. In Component 1, PROSPER’s progress was uneven. The program made good strides in Activity 1.3 (FTI community forestry curriculum), but fell behind schedule in the execution of Activity 1.1 (primary formal and non-formal curricula) in particular.
The extension of PROSPER’s activities to seven new sites from October to December was accompanied and supported by a major expansion of PROSPER’s workforce and physical assets. During the quarter, PROSPER established, equipped, and staffed new field offices in both Tappita (southern Nimba County) and Buchanan (Grand Bassa County). In each office, a full-time PROSPER Forestry Officer ensures technical coordination of program activities; a Field Office Administrator provides administrative and financial support and oversight. Between October and early December, PROSPER’s three national subcontractors (NAEAL, CJPS, and AGRHA) recruited, oriented and deployed – respectively – Education/Outreach Officers, Organization Development Officers, and Livelihood Officers for the Tappita and Buchanan offices (a total of six persons), and Community Mobilizers for each of the seven new sites (a total of 21 persons). Motorcycles were purchased for use by all field staff, and training in their use, maintenance and record-keeping was provided to staff as part of their mobilization Though the establishment of the new field offices was made difficult by the extended rainy season, associated logistical problems, and equipment and communications issues, both were fully-staffed and functional by the end of the quarter.
The larger context in which PROSPER’s activities unfolded during the quarter remained dominated by the Private Use Permits scandal and the resulting shake-up at the FDA. Proponents of sustainable forest management in Liberia were alarmed to learn in October of substantial continued logging operations and exports of timber in apparent violation of the PUP moratorium. While the nation awaited the results of an investigation into the PUP scandal by an independent panel, many observers expressed concern about whether the Government would take decisive action to protect Liberia’s forest resources based on the panel’s findings.
During the quarter, PROSPER contributed to ongoing efforts by the GOL and its partners to improve land and forest resource tenure policy by sharing relevant findings from work in PROSPER’s sites. This included a presentation by PROSPER’s DCOP on Private Use Permits, Tribal Certificates, agriculture concessions, overlapping land claims, and issues related to community representation vis-à-vis land ownership at the USAID-sponsored national Land Tenure Workshop in October, and a brown bag presentation on the Community Rights Law and PUPs for the Land Commission in November.
The following contract deliverables were completed during the first quarter of FY 2013 (Oct.-Dec. 2012):
- Initial assessment prepared of the viability of two Payments For Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes (#30)
- Gender integration plan (#1)
The following contract deliverables due in the first quarter of FY 2013 were prepared in draft form but have not been submitted:
- Biodiversity assessments completed for new sites (#24)
- 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 second quarter of FY 2013:
- None due