Liberia is seeing in a new age of progressive, community forestry that – if done right – has the potential to be an exemplary model for others to follow.
But, our new investigation ‘Power to the People’ reveals that this community forestry permitting system is being hijacked by rapacious logging companies and a complicit Forestry Development Authority.
Logging companies are using a number of tricks to undermine community forestry in Liberia, including:
- Seizing control over community forests before
permits have even been awarded to communities.
- Drawing communities into secret pacts by
working with local elites who haven’t been formally elected by the people to
represent their interests.
- Exploiting legal loopholes to take advantage
of weaker areas of regulation and maximise their profits.
This is not the first time that the Liberian forest has been hijacked by large rapacious logging companies – the Private Use Permits scandal in 2012 saw the logging industry exploiting licenses designed for small operators, with millions of hectares of land handed over to illegal loggers.
Our research also points to companies affiliated to the notorious Malaysian company, Samling Global, playing a leading role in prising control over Liberia’s rich and diverse forest ecosystems, away from communities, and for themselves.
It is perhaps no surprise that Samling-linked companies, which came in for some of the most severe criticism in the official investigation into Private Use Permits yet were never sanctioned, are coming back with a vengeance.
Global Witness is calling on the Liberian government to take immediate action to investigate and cancel any unlawful company-community agreements, and ensure that its own rules are followed when new community forests are approved.
We are also calling on donors including Norway, the European Union, and the UK to press Liberia to implement the promised independent investigation into the legality of each existing permit, and ensure that any illegally logged timber isn’t being traded for profit by these exploitative companies.