As the saying goes that an informed mind is an enlightened mind, which is exactly what the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) and Foundation for Community Initiatives (FCI) have done for citizens in the Gbi Forest Communities about the carbon market and the Blue Carbon deal.
The government of Liberia is currently at an advanced stage of agreement with a United Arab Emirates-based (UAE) firm for carbon offset development. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was entered into on March 25, 2023.
It is intended for Liberia to grant a whopping 1, 093, 075 hectares of land for use by Blue Carbon to carry on activities aimed at developing carbon trading opportunities in Liberia. Blue Carbon will have total control of the targeted Liberia and the upper Guinea’s remaining intact rainforests for the next 30-60 years if the current deal is agreed between Liberia and Blue Carbon.
According to the draft contract, Liberia will give out its Protected Areas (PAs), Proposed Protected Areas (PPAs) and customary lands including Foya PPA (164, 628 ha), FMC B-PPA (57,262), Gbi PPA (88,405), Krahn-Bassa PPA (290, 392), Krahn-Grebo PA (97,136), Sarpo PA (154,966), Wonegisi PA (26,000), Barte-CL (124, 875) and Gola Park PA (89,411) respectively to Blue Carbon.
The SDI and FCI provided education on the carbon market and the Blue Carbon deal in Gbi Chiefdom from October 30-31, 2023.
GBI proposed a Protected Area of 88,405 that will be given to Blue Carbon if the contract is signed. Based on this, SDI and FCI held an awareness meeting in Freeman and Wontoe Towns with participants selected from all of the 17 towns and one village. Gbi has an estimated population of 6,000 with farming and hunting considered as their livelihoods.
The communities were informed about the benefits and associated risks of the carbon market and the legal analysis of the draft Blue Carbon deal.
They were eager to know whether there are laws in Liberia governing the carbon market like the existing forest and land rights laws. They were also eager to know the effects of the carbon market, the geographic areas of the Blue Carbon deal, their benefits as communities, the essence of the carbon market and why it has become a global discussion, the advantages and disadvantages of the deal, and why they haven’t been informed by the government knowing very well their forest will be affected.
Making the presentation, the Program Coordinator of the Forest Governance Program (FGP) at the SDI, Jonathan W. Yiah, explained to participants that the overall objective of the awareness is to educate community members on the agreement the Liberian Government wants to sign with Blue Carbon.
Mr. Yiah stated that “We have come to educate you on the carbon market. The good and bad side of the carbon market. We weren’t sent by the government. We are concerned about the Blue Carbon deal and why our people are not informed about it.”
Speaking at the meeting, Arthur W. Sayee, Paramount Chief of Gbi Chiefdom said “We haven’t attended any workshop on the carbon market or even the Blue Carbon deal. But today is one of the happiest days in the history of Gbi Chiefdom, as well as the Gbi & Doru district for SDI to clearly educate us like this. We just want to say thank you SDI.”
“SDI, we say thank you and don’t get tired of teaching us,” Arthur W. Sayee, Paramount Chief of Gbi Chiefdom. Also speaking through an interpreter, Ma Helena Wiles of Freeman Town expressed concerns that they are surprised that the government is yet to hold a meeting with them on the Blue Carbon deal.
The concerned citizens also urged the government to do the right thing by respecting the Land Rights Act and the Forestry Laws which called for Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) before signing any agreement.
“Anything that is not legally done is not done at all,” Elijah Daniels, Chairman, Gbi & Doru Youth Movement. For his part, the Program Development Officer at SDI, Mr. Jacob Hilton, urged participants to get to their respective communities to educate others to put them in a better position about the carbon market and the Blue Carbon deal. “As Forest communities, we should fight hard so we can’t be making the same mistakes. You were taught how to calculate land rental and cubic meter fees, but up to now some of us don’t know how to calculate them. What more about something you cannot see, how will you know the benefits, and how you will get them? The information provided here will help you all,” Jacob Hilton, Program Development Officer at SDI.
The activity is part of a project funded by the UK’s Forest Governance, Markets and Climate Program.