The Liberian government is weak, which affects forest governance, among other things. The weekly radio programme Forest Hour ensures that forest issues are addressed and put on the agenda of the national Forest Development Authority.
Forest Hour is an advocacy programme with great impact. A major achievement of the programme is that forest communities now count as contributing parties.
Since the weekly radio call-in programme was launched in April 2019, it has drawn attention to several critical forest issues flagged by both the guests and callers from various forest communities across the country and media institutions. Due to revelations by Forest Hour, the board of a corrupt Community Forest Management Body (CFMB), representing the business interest of the communities in logging contracts and other deals, had to resign. Forest Hour also revealed that some higher ups within the Forest Development Authority (FDA) were trying to undermine the board elections of a CFMB.
The influence of the radio programme extends to the meetings of the FDA, where issues from the show are placed on the weekly agenda. Because of Forest Hour, officials of FDA, local officials and members of parliament now handle forest-related matters carefully. The show has also increased community members’ understanding that they can empower themselves and take responsibility for forest issues. Additionally, it has enhanced transparency and accountability and increased education and information dissemination. For example, the new CFMB board members (who replaced the removed leadership) presented an official quarterly report for the first time, which included the information that a local logging company had made payments to the CFMB account.
This influence was intended from the outset. The aim of Forest Hour is to voice in real time in the public arena the interests of the communities in order to influence stakeholders at the national level. It provides an alternative national platform to draw stakeholders’ attention to infractions in forest communities. Topics discussed include illegal logging, compliance or non-compliance with legislation, bad labour practices, forest management contracts, Community Forest Management Agreements, environmental pollution, and reviews of forest laws and regulations, as well as forest-related issues such as corruption in CFMBs, performance of CFMBs, and interference by government officials in community forests. The radio platform is also used to discuss research and briefing papers produced by Independent Forest Monitors, including Global Witness and independent researchers.
Forest Hour runs every Thursday at 4 p.m. on OK FM. It is produced by 18 dedicated independent and trained journalists, all members of Liberia Forest Media Watch, who collect cases across the country for the programme. It can be heard live and on Facebook, and is simultaneously relayed on four rural radio stations — Radio Sinoe, Radio Dukpa, Radio Cape Mount and Radio Live — in forested counties.
The radio programme is part of the EU-financed project “Strengthening the capacity of non-state actors to improve FLEGT-VPA and REDD+ processes in Western Africa,” implemented by Volunteers to Support International Efforts in Developing Africa (VOSIEDA) in Liberia and by Tropenbos International.
Published in the Annual Report 2019