The government of Liberia has put in place other stringent measures in addition to the earlier pre-COVID-19 prevention protocols to reduce the rate of spread which includes restrictions on movement between counties, curfew, compulsory wearing of face masks, restrictions on social gatherings, etc. These measures have already impacted the work of SESDev and the livelihood of communities. The restrictions have created a gap in providing technical support that communities critically need during this period, drawing from lessons of the 2014 Ebola epidemic where an agro-commodity company
exploited the crisis and acquired communities’ land by negotiating and signing 9 agreements whilst restrictions on movement and social gatherings were in place. There is therefore the possibility that land transactions would occur, again, without adequate consultations with right holders and subsequent land clearance which are mostly characterized by deforestation would occur without any notice. At the community level, community members have already felt the impacts of these restrictions which include effect on farming season which would eventually affect productivity (yields)
of farmers even after COVID-19 is contained; reduced income due to limited market accessibility for farm produce harvested; and scarcity of essential food ingredients like salt, seasoning, fish, rice, etc on the market as there are no movements.
SESDev, with support from the Waterloo foundation through Forest Peoples Program (FPP), trained thirty community monitors in Sinoe, Grand Kru, and Maryland to monitor and report to SESDev any emerging issues relating to investor engagement meetings with the community during the pandemic. The monitors from these communities were taught to report through an Early Warning and Reporting System (EWRS) that allows SESDev to file every complaint coming from the communities in a database.
These communities will be supported for three months to monitor issues relating to MoU implementations as well as be advised before going into any former agreement with any external investors concerning the usage of their lands.
The communities and their monitors thanked SESDev and donors for helping them to be watchmen for their communities.