NEEZWEIN, River Cess – Representatives from communities affected by the logging activities of the EJ&J Investment Corporation met on Saturday, February 24 to determine how to spend funds recently provided by the logging company.
The 2006 New Forestry Reform Law requires communities affected by logging activities to receive 30 percent of fees paid by logging companies to the national government.
Speaking on a River Cess radio station on Friday, February 23, Matthew Walley, the chairman of the Community Forestry Development Committee of Forest Management Contract Area B, said the company had provided US$115,000 for the communities from fees paid to the government.
An additional US$5,000 has also been paid to the communities to provide financial aid to student within the communities where the logging company operated. The money is a fulfillment of a social agreement between the company and the communities that requires the company to pay US$5,000 every semester for educational support.
A forest management contract refers to a long-term forest resources license issued by the government under the law to allow a company access to a tract of forest land. There are three forest management contracts in River Cess: B, C, and K.
In each contract area, a community forestry development committee is formed to represent the affected communities and is responsible for insuring that the communities receive their social benefits and that the benefits are distributed equally.
Walley, the chair of the committee for Forest Management Contract Area B, told The Bush Chicken that the recent US$5,000 educational benefit was the second payment made by the company since the agreement was signed.
“Since we negotiated and signed the social agreement, two semesters have passed,” Walley said. The first portion was provided in November 2017 and the second was just paid in February 2018.
Representatives of the 12 clans that make up the affected communities agreed that three students should be taken from each of the clans to be awarded the financial aid. Walley told the gathering that US$8,000 will be allocated for that purpose.
For the remaining fees received from the logging company, the committee agreed to build a bridge and a clinic and complete an unfinished vocational training center. The estimates of the projects amounted to US$95,000.
In October 2016, the logging company had paid US$46,341 to the community as land rental fees which, according to Walley, was used to start construction on the vocational training center in Yarpah Town.
Featured photo by Eric Doue