Liberia is home to globally significant forests and most of its people depend on them for their livelihoods. But the predominance of large-scale timber extraction in the country prior to 2006 provided little benefits for local people and the environment due to poor resource governance. 

Recent moves by the Government of Liberia to reform its forest sector provide a window of opportunity to bring about profound and lasting change for the country’s forests, local communities, and the wider economy.

Held in Monrovia from 6 – 7 October, Rethinking Liberia’s Forests aimed at developing a shared vision for Liberia’s forests and people, and to create practical plans to implement this vision. Discussions included concrete examples from Liberia’s forest sector as well as lessons learned from other countries with a view to considering how Liberia would benefit from different forms of forest management.

The following themes were covered:

1.       Resources and governance: What can we learn from holistically assessing Liberia’s forest resources? What regulations currently govern the forest sector, and what legal frameworks are emerging (including land tenure legislation)?  How can we build upon traditional/ indigenous systems of forest management?

2.       Local realities for communities and forests: How are local communities using the non-cash, intangible goods and services provided by Liberia’s forests? What are the opportunities and threats they face? What can be learned from other countries with similar experiences?

3.       Real and potential initiatives: How can experiences in Liberia inform locally controlled forest management on a wider scale? What can we learn from regional and global examples on this and in other areas, including on the balance of timber and non-timber activities?

4.       Institutions: How might a forest authority, other government agencies, NGOs and other intermediaries best support sustainable and legal community forest and land management?

The conference was co-organised by the Forestry Development Authority of Liberia, the Rights and Resources Initiative and Global Witness, and supported by a planning team including representatives from the Liberia Land Commission, the NGO Coalition of Liberia, and development partners supporting in the forest sector in Liberia.