JERRY KING VILLAGE, River Cess – Representatives of communities affected by the logging activities of the EJ&J Investment Corporation met on Friday, January 4, 2019, to break grounds for the construction of an eight-bed clinic.
The Liberian government provided the funding from fees paid by the logging company, which operates within the county. 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.
The money, which is transferred to the National Benefit Sharing Trust Board, a body comprised of representatives of logging companies, communities, the government, and the National Civil Society Council, is redistributed to the communities upon request in the form of a resolution.
On 25, February 2017, representatives of the 12 affected communities in the EJ&J logging area gathered and voted to have a clinic constructed in that part of the county from the logging fees. In November 2018, the chairman of the Community Forestry Development Committee of Forest Management Contract Area B, Matthew Walley, had received US$62,703 from the trust board as land rental fees paid by EJ&J. The company was awarded a forest management contract area of 57,262 hectares in River Cess in 2009.
According to Walley, the contract to construct the clinic has been awarded to LIDA Liberia Limited. LIDA is expected to complete the project in six months.
Walley said 30 percent of the amount has been given to the contractors and another 30 percent is expected to be given soon, but River Cess’ assistant superintendent for development, Amos Somah, warned that no other money should be given to the company until the work reaches “at least 75 percent completion.”
During the groundbreaking ceremony, which was attended by local county officials and some residents of the district, Somah called on community dwellers to take the project as their own.
“It is you, the community, who is going to be the direct beneficiary of this project,” Somah said. “My advice to you is: be the keepers of the materials. Projects sometimes fail not because of the company but you the community members [are] in the habit of buying the materials.”
He also said contractors working on projects in River Cess have often abandoned those projects after receiving 75 percent of the money and only completing 50 percent of the work.
For his part, the administrative manager of LIDA Liberia Limited, Mac Doxon W. Nyenegbo, promised that his company would complete the project in time “with or without money.”
Nyenebo said the completed clinic will have a delivery room, a consultation room, an outpatient department, a pharmacy, and a storeroom.
The architectural design of the building was presented to the public at the groundbreaking, prompting questions from the crowd as to whether the US$62,703 allotted to the project was enough to complete it. However, Nyenebo assured the gathering that his company would ensure that the project was completed with the provided funds.
When completed, the clinic is expected to be a significant boost to the health delivery system of the district. Currently, there is only one public health facility in the upper part of the district. That existing facility caters to a population of 3,854.
In the social agreement signed between the community and EJ&J, the company agreed to pay US$2.50 per hectare each year. Thirty percent of that amount is sent to the concession communities for development projects.
In 2016, the affected communities of FMC Area B in River Cess received US$46,341 from EJ&J and an additional US$10,000 in 2018. That amount was used to complete a vocational training center in the Central River Cess Town of Yarpah Town. EJ&J has also provided support to education in the tune of US$10,000 for students in the affected area.
Featured photo by Eric Opa Doue