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Inside Liberia`s forest sector

68% of Liberia’s land surface is covered by forests, making it the most forested country in West Africa; and the forests have a high biodiversity and commercial value. Liberia’s forest sector contributes 10% to the national economy and serves as an important source of livelihoods and employment for more than a third of Liberia’s population that lives in forested areas. 
Despite these important contributions, Liberia`s forests are under threat and need to be better managed; net forest depletion increased from 0.5% in 2005 to 32% in 2015 and the deforestation rate is estimated at 0.46% per year. Improving governance is key to addressing the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation and ensuring overall sustainable forest management. This is especially true in Liberia, where the strategic plan for the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), which plays a pivotal role in managing Liberia’s forest resources, prioritizes institutional strengthening for achieving its vision of “sustainable forestry for sustainable development.”  
The Program on Forests (PROFOR) conducted an institutional capacity assessment survey of the FDA to generate granular level data on the inner workings of the agency in order to position Liberia`s forest sector as an engine for economic growth. 438 FDA employees, or approximately 82% of the staff were interviewed on their experiences and perceptions on the FDA`s operations including human resource management.
The survey allowed for a systematic look at the work practices, management approaches, staff motivations, leadership, and work environment to highlight specific weaknesses that constrain the FDA’s effective functioning.
The findings were published in a new report, “Liberia Forestry Development Authority: An Institutional Capacity Assessment”. They show serious deficiencies in management practices, access to facilities, compensation, and other human resource management factors that impact attitudes and behaviors on productivity.  The survey found that FDA staff have weaker educational qualifications compared to other government institutions, lack adequate access to in-service training, report high levels of rent-seeking in the organization and express widely varying motivation levels - with 69% of staff reporting lower motivation levels compared with when they joined the FDA. However, the staff also associate better management with safer and more trustworthy work environments and value community engagement that reinforces the importance of the FDA’s customer service charter. 
The report identifies four key reform interventions that, when supported by this strong foundation of better data and more regular monitoring and evaluation, will help strengthen FDA’s institutional capacity. These interventions include: improving skills through merit-based recruitment and competency-based training; stronger management practices - in particular, performance assessments; targeting and monitoring; more equitable pay; and greater community engagement. 
The FDA plays a pivotal role in Liberia`s sustainable forest management but faces serious operational challenges especially in human resource management. Improving governance of the forest sector presents significant challenges and requires continuous efforts and long-term engagement. This survey identifies the most necessary interventions and provides a baseline measure of civil service productivity in FDA against which progress can be measured as these interventions get implemented.” Zahid Hasnain, Senior Public Sector Specialist at the World Bank explained. 
This Liberia case study was a test of a new forest governance assessment diagnostic tool, which forest management institutions in other countries can use to generate data and insights on how to improve management of their forest sectors. Administrative data and regular staff surveys provide a key set of indicators on public employment and management that can be used to assess progress toward institutional strengthening. Improving forest sector governance has the potential to significantly increase the forest sector contribution to national development, employment and livelihoods. 
Prepared by Charlotte Ampaire

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Last Updated : 06-26-2020