Top: Rose Yancy and community people lead foreigners into the Kpaytuo Plantation. Photo credit: Facebook/Rose Yancy
By Gerald C. Koinyeneh
KPAYTUO, Nimba County – A Liberian-owned company ships timber from a forest in Nimba County unknown to the rest of the public, except for the Managing Director of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) Mike Doryen and the other top managers of the agency, who have sanctioned the firm’s illegal operations.
Rosemart Inc. was awarded the Kpaytuo Plantation in the Saclepea District at least six years ago, according to documents withheld secret ever since until a recent investigation by The DayLight prompted the FDA to publish them. The company has illegally shipped US$100,000 worth of teak logs, expensive woods used for construction, shipbuilding and the making of rifles. At the time of Rosemart’s last known shipment in 2020, teaks were selling for US$300 per cubic meter. It has traded between US$1-2.5 million goods on the Trade Key alone, a Saudi Arabia-based e-commerce platform.
But there is no public record of Romsemart’s operations—its contracts with the FDA and the community where it operates—except for three illegal export permits. The company is not captured in the reports of the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI). It has only paid US$664.70 during all its years of operations, with some of its fees going straight to the FDA’s account at the United Bank for Africa (UBA), instead of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA).
Villagers adjacent to the Kpaytuo Plantation said Rosemart pays them US$15,000 for a certain quantity of logs. They said they have had three transactions, information backed by the permits published so far. The 500-acre Kpaytuo is one of several plantations across the country that were established by the government of Liberia prior to the Liberian civil wars as part of the government’s forest regeneration program.
“The agreement puts Rosemart in charge of the forest. The few pieces [of logs] that remained there, she is responsible for them. I heard that she has found partners and is waiting for the rain to stop coming,” said Adolphus Kpangar, the commissioner of Kpaytuo township. He declined to share a copy of the agreement.
The FDA awarded Rosemart’s its contracts outside of forestry laws and regulations. There are five legal logging permits: forest management contracts (FMC), timber sale contracts (TSC), forest use permits (FUP) or private use permits (PUP) and a community forest management agreement (CFMA). Rosemart contract does not fall under any of the five contracts, known in the sector as forest resource licenses.
Rosemart did not conduct an environmental social impact assessment (ESIA) as mandated by the National Forestry Reform Law. The assessment draws out the environmental and social consequences of a project and proposes measures to mitigate potential negative impacts. Clearing a forest without conducting an ESIA could hurt plants, animals and people, experts say. For instance, Kpaytuo Plantation has swamps, generally important ecosystems that are home to different species.
Also, Rosemart’s export permits were issued outside of the chain of custody or LiberTrace, the system that tracks all logs produced and shipped from Liberia. Its creation was a monumental achievement in Liberia’s drive to trade legal and sustainable logs. It is a crucial component of the country’s Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union signed in 2011.
“I have no idea what [those permits are],” said Gertrude Nyaley, the technical manager for the department in an emailed interview with The DayLight. “What I know is that all woods and wood products must be exported [through] the LiberTrace system. Anything shipment of timber or timber products outside the chain-of-custody system is illegal.” Awarding permits outside the chain of custody amounts to economic sabotage under the law.
Rose Yancy Adikwu, Rosemart’s co-owner and CEO, turned down an interview with The DayLight on her company’s illegal activities.
The FDA did not initially respond to The DayLight’s inquiry. But in a rebuttal to our investigation that exposed the secret deal, it falsely claimed that Rosemart’s consignment did not meet certain requirements. It also claimed that Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS), the Swiss firm that created LiberTrace, declined to enter the teak logs from plantations into the chain of custody.
Contrary to this claim, Rosemart made a number of shipments that are much larger than some of the ones captured by the LEITI. For instance, Rosemart exported 88.625 cubic meters of logs outside the chain of custody in 2020. That same year, Regnals Internationals Inc.—which runs the Cavalla Reforestation Plantation—exported only 62 cubic meters of logs.
SGS also debunked the FDA’s claim it declined to register the logs Rosemart exported into the system.
“SGS has never been informed of any scientific management plantations to be applied in LiberTrace,” Theodore Aime Nna, SGS’ forestry project manager, told The DayLight. “Moreover, SGS does not certify any log in Liberia, but only verifies their history…”
This story was a production of the Community of Forest and Environmental Journalists of Liberia (CoFEJ).