COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION IN FOREST MANAGEMENT IN THE BLEIH COMMUNITY FOREST, NIMBA COUNTY, LIBERIA
Community participation in forest management has gained popularity as one way of ensuring sustainable forest management and so the Bleih Community Forest management was assessed for its adherence to the principles of participation. The study was done in the communities around the Bleih Community Forest, northern Liberia, Sanniquillie Nimba County. A case study approach with focus group discussion and interviews was used to assess stakeholders’ perspectives on people’s participation in the management of the forest. The data collection was done in November/December, 2015. The interview covered 185 respondents while 85 community members participated in the focus group discussion. Data collected from the interview was subjected to SPSS (version 21) for quantitative analysis and that collected from the focus group discussion was analysed descriptively. Management of the Bleih Community forest was not fully inclusive of the members of the communities surrounding the forest. Eighty four percent (84%) of the respondents did not participate from the development of the management plan to the management and monitoring of the forest. Respondents outside the 36-56 (years old) age category had lower participation likewise females. In terms of people’s position in the community, the traditional leaders did not participate at all in the implementation and monitoring of the forest. Also respondents’ level of education and place of origin did not increase their level of participation in forest management. The respondents (89%) of all the categories (age, sex, position in the community and level of education) did not show any level of satisfaction with the forest management, their needs were not met as benefits were not given as requested or promised.The study recommends active participation of the communities in the management of the forest.