Monday, 1 October 2012

Liberia's failed logging promises

More than 60% of Liberia's virgin rainforest has been granted to logging companies since Nobel Prize winning President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, came to power in 2006, according to a Global Witness report. It says the majority of these have been unregulated private contracts. Tamasin Ford reports from Liberia.

A mud road, churned into thick, gloopy soup from the heavy rains, sweeps through Henry Town in Gbarpolu county in the east of Liberia.

(Photo credit: Travis Lupik)

It is less than 150km (90 miles) from the capital, Monrovia, but without a single tar road in the county it can take up to 10 hours to reach here in the rainy season. Old cars and rickety trucks quickly get swallowed up by the metre-high sludge, requiring hours of lifting and digging before other vehicles can pass.

Morris Kamara and his wife, Old Lady, sit on the porch of their small shop in the centre of town. An array of brightly coloured plastic containers hangs from the tin roof. "This is my shop. As you can see I sell provisions, rubber dishes, mattresses and other things," he said proudly.

Mr Kamara went on to explain how the price of goods is expensive because of the bad roads, adding that this was one of the reasons they had wanted a logging company to operate in the region. "Logging will bring about some development. They will help to improve the road conditions... I think it's very important for logging to be going on here," he said.

The chiefdom of Korninga, where Henry Town is located, signed a social agreement with a logging company in 2009 which promised a road, a clinic, a school, land rent and even monthly salaries for the elderly. The agreements are part of the requirements for firms to be granted a Private Use Permit (PUP). PUPs, which now cover 40% of Liberia's best forests according to a report by the Global Witness campaign group, were designed to allow private landowners to cut trees on their property.

Activists say that instead they are being used by companies to avoid the new, stricter forest regulation brought in when Ellen Johnson Sirleaf came to power in 2006.

To read the rest of this article, please click on this link to the BBC's website.

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