Working Together, finding solutions to community problems
In an effort to buttress the national government’s efforts and make communities more effective in participating in land use planning, develop and respect natural resource management by-laws, including the designation of forest community conservation zones and at the same time providing sustainable livelihoods and sustainable forest management activities, the Liberia Forest Sector Project, (LFSP), through its implementing partners, the Society for the Conservation (SCNL) and the Sustainable Trade Initiative ( IDH) for the Intensification and Acceleration of Impacts by Focusing on Livelihood Development and Land Use Support to Cluster Communities in the Northwest Landscape as well as the involvement of the communities in the process.
The Gbarma’s Dialogue was intended to sit with the communities’ key stakeholders to discuss issues trending in the landscape and find a way forward. The total number of persons in attendance was 59. There were eleven (11) females and forty-eight (48) males. The District Commissioner, Alfred O Bai, of Gbarma District, made remarks where he welcomed everyone, and thanked SCNL for calling for such a dialogue and selecting Gbarma as the venue. SCNL Program Manager, Michael E. Taire, presented SCNL and partners’ initiatives in the Gola Landscape before Key Gola Stakeholders.
In Mr. Taire’s presentation, he reminded the participants that SCNL has cooperatively worked with the communities of Gola since 2009, and SCNL is not prepared to, ever leave because the [empowerment and improvement] of the lives of the communities matter to SCNL. He admonished the participants to always reach out to SCNL through the sub-offices or head office in Monrovia if there are grievances that need intervention. The program manager then said the doors of SCNL have always been opened and will continue to be opened to address the concerns of the communities
The Executive Director of SCNL, Mr. Michael F. Garbo added his voice to the presentation and thanked the communities for accepting the invitation for the dialogue.
He said, “SCNL and the communities are like tooth and tongue, they will fight but yet none can live without the other”. He said the communities have been very cooperative and nothing should stop the level of cooperation that has existed. He reaffirmed the openness of SCNL’s doors to them for discussion on matters trending in the landscape. He pinpointed a few of the livelihood interventions that are about to kick off by the funds of LFSP and among those are: Provision of motorbikes to some communities, solar light installation in some communities, renovation of Townhalls and schools, and the building of one major bridge on the Kongba Road. On the issue of the road, Mr. Garbo said, he will continue to knock on the doors of the national government and other partners to see the need to intervene someday as the matter of the road cannot be handled by one company or NGO like SCNL.
The Acting Clan chief, of Tonglay, Mr. Elijah Nyonkeh, thanked SCNL for the level of support since 2009 and most importantly for the support given to them for their community Forest legally being established. He said the bad road condition is a major concern and wants SCNL to see what can be done to make the road pliable for vehicles. He was buttressed by the Town Chief of Normon, Joseph Varney. Mr. Varney said SCNL has taught them too many good things about the importance of the forest and due to this massive awareness along with the livelihood provided to the citizens, they have stopped those who used to cross over from Sierra |Leone to farm and hunt in their forest.
The office of the Representative, Hon. Joseph Matthew was represented by his chief of office staff, Mr. Zwanah Boima Dono. He thanked SCNL and the community for turning out and flagging the issue of the bad road. He said, Hon. Matthews is working hard to make sure benefits come to them in kongba as he will continue to engage the national government and partners to intervene.
In Response, SCNL’s Science and Conservation Coordinator, Jerry C. Garteh, thanked the community for their participation in the meeting and flagged the recent recruitment of women eco guards to help protect the environment. Mr. Michael F. Garbo admonished the citizens of being mindful of concession companies that are currently operating in Camp Alpha. “The community should also try to sit with the companies to see what the concession contract says and what they are doing to benefit the communities. These things must be clear in the minds of the communities to avoid the company robbing the citizens of their desired benefits,” he added.