TAPPITA, NIMBA CO.: Conflicts which often engulfed logging companies and their host communities are on the verge of mitigation following the coming into effect of what is known as the ‘Grievance and Dispute Resolution Mechanism’; a manual produced in January 2021 by the Liberia Timber Association (LibTA) and partners to seek comprehensive dialogue to resolve conflicts between logging companies and host communities rather than pursuing legal remedies.
As a means of creating awareness among logging companies operating in the country and their host communities on the newly developed Alternative Resolution Mechanism, LibTA and collaborating partners including the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) have begun holding trainings/workshops across the country not to only sensitize logging companies and their host communities about the coming into being of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism but also using the instrument as a test case to resolve disputes between logging companies and their host communities in Rivercess and Lofa counties.
In continuation of such endeavor, LibTA and partners from March 7 – 8, 2022 held a two-day training/workshop on the Alternative Dispute Resolution Method in Tappita, Nimba County, for citizens in surrounding towns hosting three logging companies and representatives of the three logging companies respectively.
LibTA used the occasion to ascertain from both the companies and citizens the grievances and acrimonies existing between them.
The meeting which was attended by elders and prominent citizens in communities hosting the logging companies was particularly aimed at unveiling the Grievance and Dispute Resolution Mechanism manual, otherwise known as “Alternative Dispute Resolution Method” and to sensitize participants on how it can be used to settle disputes arising between them rather than spending resources and precious time pursuing court settlement.
Speaking at the onset of the training, the Head of Secretariat of LibTA, Mr. E. Ekema A. Witherspoon, thanked international partners for financial support and later asked participants to break up in six smaller groups and intensely deliberate on the ‘Grievance and Dispute Resolution Mechanism’ manual.
He later asked the three logging companies representatives on one hand and the citizens in the surrounding towns of the concessions to pinpoint grievances and other misunderstandings they might have had with each other over the last one to two years during the operations of the three companies so that such matters can be resolved using the Alternative Dispute Resolution Method as guard.
In their presentation, the citizens of GBI Community Forest mentioned their grievances as the failure of the Liberia Tree and Trading Corporation (LTTC) to rehabilitate roads in its concession since 2011 to present; its failure to construct hand pumps; pit latrines and a clinic for the eleven affected communities.
For their part, citizens residing around the Kparblee concession forest complained that the company is yet to pay in full surface land rental fees and scholarship funds on time for three years. They said the company has reneged to construct a Community Assembly headquarters, Youth Center and repair hand pumps.
In reaction, Mr. David M. Toe of the LCCT Incorporated said over the past one year, his company has observed that community members have demonstrated no respect for the agreement (CRL) and do not honor the resolution they signed for road project; as they often block roads over minor issues; and that community people are doing farming in their concession while at the same time selling huge portion of the concession to others.
Discussions and inputs on the way forward were proffered and consummated after facilitators carefully examined the issues raised by the two groups so as to mitigate the lingering impasse.