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Gbarpolu County: Communities Alarm Stalemate in Logging Contract, Request Benefits

Gbarpolu County – The Community Forest Development Committee (CFDC) in Gbarngay Clan, Bokomu District is upset about the quantity of logs cut down in from their forest amid the logging company’s failure to perform its social responsibilities.

Report By: Henry B. Gboluma, Jr. in Gbarpolu County

“We have been working hard to see the implementation of the company’s social responsibilities,” explains John Y. Flomo, the committee’s co-chair. “There are lots of issues that they (the logging company) have failed to do.”

Flomo says the six affected communities signed a two-year Timber Sale Contract (TSC) with B & V Timber Company to log 5,000 hectares of land in Gbarngay Clan. The agreement calls for the company to pay affected communities 1.20 cents per cubic meter of log, he said.

TCS is a type-2 short-term forest resource license issued by the government under section 5.4 of the National Forestry Reform Law of 2006. It is issued only to firms with minimum of 51% Liberian ownership. Under this contract, trees are harvested from concession forests land no greater than 5,000 hectares and the contract cannot exceed three years.

“They agreed to give a motorbike to the committee to be looking at their activities but from that time up to this time, we have not got the motorbike from them,” he said, adding that the company has also failed to construct pit latrines and repair hand pumps in its project-affected communities.

“The only thing so far they have done since we entered the two-year agreement is the payment of the two years scholarship money,” he said. “Every year they gave us US$3,000 and they have paid for 2019 and 2020.”

Despite these concerns, the CFDC claims that the company has cut down 715 trees in the forest of which 200 logs are parked in three different locations while the rest are spread across the forest.

Amid the dissatisfaction, the communities have assured that they will stay far from disrupting the operations of the company, says Flomo.

“Even if our people try to take action by bringing country devil or making roadblock, it will make other people, I mean, our leaders to feel bad about us,” he said.

“We are asking the government to help us fight this fight so that our communities can get their benefits because the logs are spoiling. When the logs spoiled and the forest damaged, our people will suffer and our great-grandchildren them coming – the next generation, will suffer too.”

In July this year, the CFDC held a meeting with the company to mitigate the problem, according to James Beyan, the CFDC Chair.

“They [the company] promised us that by November 15, 2021, they will pay for our logs they harvested in the bush,” Beyan said. “Whether they carry or not, let them just pay us. We have informed our people and FDA about what is unfolding, and we are waiting for that moment to arrive.”

When contacted, B & V Timba manager Charles Gonleh confirmed meeting with the CFDC but refused to say why the company is yet to meet up with its social responsibility as stated in the agreement with the communities.

Explains Gonleh: “There is a committee set up and we met with them almost two Saturdays ago and we discussed it. The Company is closed now due to the rainy season. When we resume by October or November this year, we can disclose our plan of action to the people.”

County superintendent J. Keyah Saah asserts that the situation is “raising some serious eyebrow”, while assuring to “do a follow-up with the company and FDA” to mitigate the problem.

For her part, the Regional Coordinator of FDA, Madam Ruth Varney, has assured residents of the Gbarngay Clan that the company will give them “their just benefits at all costs,” but added that the rainy season has caused the company to seize operations.

“So, I know by this dry season, they will move those logs.  Even if these logs spoiled, they will pay for them and settle the communities’ benefits,” Varney said.

Local Voices Liberia is a network of dedicated Liberian journalists based in the 15 counties working to lift the development concerns and progress of rural communities.

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