Top: It would the second year in a role that communities have protested land rental fees. The DayLight/Harry Browne
MONROVIA – Communities affected by logging concessions across Liberia are expected to stage a sit-in action in Monrovia on Wednesday for land rental fees the government of Liberia owes them.
It would mark the beginning of a series of protests they plan to hold next month for over US$5 million the Liberian government owes them, according to a statement by the National Union of Community Forest Development Committee (NUCFDC). The group comprises the leadership of communities hosting logging contracts, covering over 1 million hectares of forestland.
NUCFDC said the protest would continue next week at an upcoming climate resilience program to be followed by a petition to President George Weah.
Locals are entitled to 30 percent of land rental fees logging companies pay the government every year. The fees are calculated based on the size of the forest in hectares and US$2.50 and US$1.25 for large-scale and small-scale concessions, respectively. However, the government has not paid the community their full amounts since 2017.
Those debts amounted to US$5.5 million between 2007 and 2019, according to a report by Forest Trends, an American NGO promoting sustainable forest management.
Last year, the government paid US$200,000 after the communities protested and allotted US$2.7 million in the current National Budget for the payments. But with barely three months before the end of the fiscal term, it has paid US$300,000, according to the NUCFDC.
“This is unfortunate and does not represent a true meaning of the government Pro-Poor Agenda for Development and Prosperity,” the statement, issued late Tuesday, read.
It said the government did not prioritize the payment, which contravenes its commitment to support communities to manage their forests and empower them to derive a sustainable livelihood from forest resources.
“This is why we as community members will stage sustained advocacy actions until the government of Liberia pays all the amount appropriated in the 2022 National Budget…,” it added.
It would be the second year in a role for communities to protest over the fees.