Building sustainable income-generation opportunities
Sound and equitable governance of land and forest resources is a necessity for rural Africans to move out of poverty. When combined with other objectives, such as better access to markets and diversification of incomes, it can be transformative. A legal and institutional framework that allows rural Africans to make productive investments in their lands and forests is a cornerstone of rural development. Careful stewardship of forests and other natural resources will follow from more secure rights if accompanied by clear delineation of responsibilities, capacity building for community enforcement, and sustainable economic growth opportunities.
While Liberia needs functioning institutions to manage natural resources as soon as possible, these institutions have to be built from a solid understanding of existing natural resource and land management systems, the effects of war and migration, and the emergence of democratic decision making. Land, forests, and trees are key assets for rural Liberians, representing their wealth and stability. Without clear governance and tenure systems for these assets, it will be difficult for rural Liberians to take advantage of economic development opportunities. Disputes are likely to escalate as development proceeds and unsound natural resource management practices may result from failure to resolve disputes and settle claims transparently and equitably. Deeding lands and forests without transparent and fair processes would be a step backward for the nation as it works to build a reputation for good governance.
ACDI/VOCA implemented a three-year subcontract award from Tetra Tech ARD to build sustainable income-generation opportunities at the community level around community forestry programs in Nimba and Sinoe counties. The subcontract came from the USAID-funded Land Rights and Community Forestry Project (LRCFP), which was awarded under the Prosperity, Livelihoods, & Conserving Ecosystems (PLACE) Indefinite Quantity Contract (IQC). ACDI/VOCA worked with small, product-focused groups to increase access to markets and initiate economic activities and opportunities.
By developing workable models in targeted areas of opportunity, LRCFP helped the government of Liberia craft new policies and institutions and build capacity at national and local levels to implement new governance systems for transparent and equitable management of land and forest resources. The LRCFP focused primarily on community forestry in two counties of Liberia but also addressed commercial forestry and conservation activities as these intersect with the rights and responsibilities of rural landholders in these areas. The LRCFP’s primary focus was in rural areas of Nimba and Sinoe counties where customary and mixed tenure systems prevail and where community forestry pilot activities can be undertaken. The program worked closely with forestry and agricultural institutions that were already active in these areas to build on their efforts while also crafting solutions that promote economic growth and ensure the rights of the poor, including disenfranchised groups. It also collaborated with conservation organizations where appropriate to create and adapt land and forest use rules and regulations to sustain biodiversity.
ACDI/VOCA worked with small, product-focused groups of men and women to access markets and focus on initiating pilot community forest activities and developing pilot-marked opportunities. ACDI/VOCA provided training in best practices in agroforestry and nontimber forest products to a wide audience of government, private sector, and local NGO participants. ACDI/VOCA conducted a series of trainings in our signature Farming as a Business curriculum to teach local community members how to assess the basic costs and benefits of their livelihood endeavors to empower them to make more educated decisions.