Skip to main content

Data for people: how communities and forests benefit from a national forest inventory

Blog | Tue, 16 Jun, 2020 · 9 min read
NFI crew in the field

Local participation has been found to have positive implications for various aspects of REDD+, and forest monitoring is no exception. To maximise local people’s involvement in forest monitoring and the assessment of social impacts, the Government of Liberia has begun to incorporate community-based monitoring into its national systems. Community forest management can play a major role in REDD+, especially when suitable data and methods are available.

Liberia’s National Forest Inventory has established a foundation of methods and capacity to assist Authorized Forest Communities in developing forest management plans that maximise their benefits from forests and non-timber forest resources. With financial support from the Government of Norway, through the World Bank, and with technical support from FAO, Liberia will soon be piloting a community forest inventory methodology, along with guidelines for community forest management planning in three Authorized Forest Communities. The communities are part of a program that seeks to enable sustainable forest management planning at the community level and is part of a larger program of the Liberia Forest Sector Program (LFSP).

National Forest Inventory of Liberia

Building on previous work done by the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) of the World Bank and the UN-REDD Programme, Liberia launched its first NFI on June 4, 2018 in Lofa County. The NFI activities have subsequently been extended to all the counties of Liberia with the goal of taking full stock of the country’s forest resources. Funded by the FCPF of the World Bank and the Government of Norway, the NFI was implemented by the Forestry Development Authority of Liberia (FDA), with technical support provided by FAO. For the first time in the country, the data collection for the NFI was fully digitised using the Open Foris toolkit. Previous inventories in Liberia in 1968 and 2007 focused on particular areas and only produced regional or local estimates of forest resources. The recently finalized inventory is the first of its kind within the country and will be the first national estimate of forest resources ever produced.

Following the completion of the inventory in early 2019, Liberia received continued support for the cleaning and analysis of the inventory data, including a number of capacity building events focused on developing the skills of Government of Liberia workers, particularly FDA staff.

Data derived from the NFI was crucial to calculate emissions factors for a number of forest cover change classes relevant to Liberia’s Forest Reference Emissions Level (FREL), submitted by the country to the UNFCCC in 2019. The FREL submission is a key milestone in Liberia’s REDD+ program. This document describes the baseline emissions scenario which Liberia will be measured against in the future to qualify for results based payments. The submission will undergo a technical assessment in 2020.

Community forest management planning

While national level data is required for informed decision-making regarding forest management, it is well known that community-based forestry can support countries in achieving forest conservation and sustainable logging while contributing to general economic development and improvement of livelihoods. Furthermore, community-based forestry aims to empower those with a direct stake in forest resources to be part of decision-making in all aspects of forest management, including policy formulation processes. However, to effectively plan and implement community-based forestry activities, countries require access to high quality and timely data. With the completion of the national forest inventory, Liberia is now well placed, both in terms of data and skills, to facilitate community-based forestry.

Community forest management planning
Local communities in Sinoe Province
© FDA RIU/James Kpadehyea

“In Liberia, communities are at the heart of what we do in forestry and REDD+,” highlights Mr Saah A. David, Jr., National REDD+ Coordinator. “Liberia’s National REDD+ Strategy has five strategic priorities and communities are at the centre of each one. It is essential to ensure that women, men and youth are rightfully involved in the process. Doing so can help contribute to the effectiveness of local forest monitoring systems and increase ownership and sustainability of REDD+.”

Support for community forest management planning in Liberia will initially focus on three communities that have completed the nine-step process and are recognized by the Forestry Development Authority as Authorized Forest Communuties. The communites are Salayea, Central Morweh and Gbeapo Potupo and Sarbo.

Rice production in Bomi County ©FAO/Jonathan Wesley Roberts
Rice production in Bomi County
© FAO/Jonathan Wesley Roberts


Next steps

In the second half of 2020, Liberia will pilot guidelines for the development of Community Forest Management Plans, making use of the tools and skills developed as part of the National Forest Inventory. FAO has and will continue to support the development of an updated inventory methodology to aid in data collection at the community level and to train inventory staff and local communities in the data collection process. Data processing workflows developed at the national scale will be replicated for these activities. Community Forest Management Plans are the primary outputs with priorities placed on sustainable forest management.