The dialogue brought communities, companies, local and national leaders face to face to debate issues affecting the sector to increase participant’s knowledge, reduce conflict and improve forest governance. Participants from four counties in the region – Lofa, Nimba, Grand Cape Mount and Gbarpolu – took part in four panel discussions:
- Roles and responsibilities of key forest stakeholders
- Benefit sharing mechanisms of forest resources
- Dispute, prevention and resolution mechanisms in forest governance
- Experience sharing on challenges (noncompliance, interference and illegal logging)
The dialogue was intentionally held at at a county level (distinct from the more common national gatherings), in an effort to create sense of ownership and unity among communities and companies by sitting face-to-face to share ideas on how to handle their forest contracts, social agreements, and illegal logging matters. Discussions identified several drivers of disputes including: the Forest Development Authority’s continual backing of companies even when it is clear that a company is in violation of the forestry laws; lack or low knowledge of forestry laws, regulations, and procedures by key forest stakeholders; poor communication and or information sharing; interference by local authorities into the functions of community forest structures (CFDCs and CFMBs); mismanagement, misappropriation and misrepresentation of forest structures, etc. The event ended with participants making an extensive list of recommendations for sustainable forest management.