Tackling climate change in Africa is too serious an issue to be left to national governments, Jean-Pierre Elong Mbassi, secretary general of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) Africa, said in an interview.
Does logging help poor and developing countries?
Yes Logging helps the poor and in Liberia it has been instrumental in our economic growth. Logging in Liberia has contributed more than 10% of GDP and has been a catalyst for development. Prior to the crisis in Liberia the timber industry created more than 25,000 jobs and was the driving force behind the construction of more than 60% of the country’s roads, enabling rural communities to better access healthcare, education and trade. Almost all of the rural economy was spurred by the timber industry. Since the new logging restrictions, most of the rural economy has ceased, impoverishing the rural areas. When logging is done in a sustainable way it provides a long-term support for development in rural communities. Today, around 48% of Liberia’s landmass is forest, totalling more than 43% of West Africa’s forest. Liberia has always – except during the crisis period – practised sustainable logging as introduced by the German Technical Mission advisory team to Liberia Forestry as early as the late 1950s and early 1960s. The country has by law set aside 30% of the forest area for protection and the rest for various economic uses including commercial logging. However, it has not achieved this owing to taxation and a restrictive legal regime. ●
Hon. Rudolph J. Merab – President, Liberia Timber Association
No Working in Liberia, our experience has been that logging by large companies who export timber to international markets has benefited neither the people who own the forests nor the country as a whole. During Liberia’s 1989-2003 civil crisis, logging companies were linked to arms traders and provided money directly to former President Charles Taylor’s war efforts, leading to UN sanctions. Since logging restarted after the war, companies have failed to pay tens of millions of dollars in taxes that they owe to the government and to communities living in concession areas. This, combined with companies’ persistent determination to break Liberia’s laws, has sorely undermined efforts by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to rebuild the country. This is not to say that all logging is bad. Global Witness believes that the people who live in the forest – the people who own the forest – have the right to manage the forest. The 2014 Liberian government’s US$150m partnership agreement with Norway is very encouraging. If Liberia is able to demonstrate that it has reduced its carbon emissions from decreased deforestation, Norway will provide up to US$150m – a remarkable sum. So while industrial logging may not be good for Liberia, the country’s new forest policy may well be. ●
Jonathan Gant – Senior campaigner, Global Witness