Is there any way provided in your country through

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COMMUNITIES AND
FORESTS: THE STATE OF
AFFAIRS IN LIBERIA
Are customary land rights considered property rights or
just rights of occupancy and use of lands?
The situation in Liberia is not completely straight-forward.
The occupancy and use rights are clear. The property rights is
less clear – especially for those land areas that have not been
registered formally. However, for political expediency, the
government ‘requires’ consent (tribal certificate) from
communities before they can issue permission for the
surveying and documentation of land in rural areas.
Is there any way provided in your country through which a
community may be recognised as the legal owner of its
local forests, pastures or wetlands?
Different laws provide different avenues with different
outcomes. Communities may apply for formal title by
following the legal procedures that includes two presidential
approvals – one for survey and one for the title. The other,
which is not as secure as the formal title, involves identifying
and agreeing your boundaries with your neighbours,
organizing internal governance structures, adopting by-laws
and management plans and then formally registering it with
the forestry authorities.
Are there any forests in your country which are today
acknowledged in law as the property of rural
communities?
Yes and NO. When it suits the government, especially the
forestry authorities – they acknowledge and use community
claims. When it does not, for example in 2008, they forestry
authorities argue for a separation between TREES and SOIL
(by land forests are an integral part of land – definition of land
in the Land Law includes trees growing on the land)
When forests are made national domain, or reserves or
parks, what rights do local communities retain?
Until recently all forms of community uses were forbidden.
Now, there are considerations for multi-use areas and timber
concessionaires are expected to allow extraction of NTFPs in
their concessions for local uses.
Do communities play a formal role in forest management?
If so, how?

Communities are allowed to establish Community Forestry Development
Committee (CFDCs). CDFCs serve as liaisons between the government
and logging companies, access community shares of forest related fees,
and invest in community development.

The Community Forestry Management Bodies (CFMBs) play similar
roles but their mandate goes beyond and includes serving as the local
forest governance hub.

Community representatives also serve on the National Benefit Sharing
Trust Board – this broad receives and distributes communities shares of
forest related fees. The NGO Coalition Facilitator serves as the Chair
person of the board.

Communities will also be represented on the national multi-stakeholder
committee that will oversee implementation of the VPA.
Is there provision for a community to become the legal manager
of a forest reserve?
Yes, the CFMBs when organized may play the roles of forest
managers; but not specifically for forest reserves. However, if
the community so desires to designate some of their forest as a
reserve, they are allowed to do so and in that case the CFMB
may then serve as a manager of such reserve.
Do communities have a say in government decision making
around forest use? If so, how?
Yes, the laws provide for that (implementation is another
matter). During planning, communities are to be consulted
about the different proposed uses. Communities are consulted
and make inputs to forest regulations. A community may
request for its area to be excluded from a concession; the only
request we are aware of (GouNwolaila) was not respected.
What are the threats to increased community control over
forests, including threats to the forest resource itself (such as
“land grabs” for agricultural production for export, logging
concessions, making new protected areas)?
The key threat to communities and forest resources is from the
agriculture sector. Two of the most recent grants cover more than
600,000 ha. They also pose the greatest threats to communities’
livelihoods and land rights – displacement and forced relation are a
major concern.
Another threat, on the horizon, is the possibility of REDD/+ projects
in the coming year. If significant quantities of Land are given for
REDD/+ projects, this will further squeeze communities to the
margin, as their access and use rights would be severely affected
How are any community rights to forests lands/resources
that are defined in law actually protected in practice?
In Liberia, protection of community forests lands and
resources is almost non-existent. As stated earlier, the
government ‘protects’ when it suits – for example the Private
Use Permits are being used as back door to allocate logging
concessions. To allocate PUPs, the land must be private land –
therefore titles that were rejected 2 years ago are now being
accepted by the forestry authorities.
What legal tools (statutory and/or customary) exist to deal
with forest resource conflicts between different
stakeholders: communities, government, private sector?
Are these legal tools working effectively for communities?
The Forestry Development Authority is the forest law
enforcement agency, the manager of forest, the statutory
facilitator of forest related stakeholder relations, and the
arbitrator in cases of conflicts. In cases where communities are
aggrieved as a result of FDA actions, the FDA serves as
arbitrator of such matters? Can this effectively work for
communities?
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