The European Union launches “Land Rights for Liberia” Project
The Project, launched on Tuesday, 14th March 2017 in Monrovia, focuses on efforts to encourage the passage of the Land Rights Act, by raising awareness at national, county and community level, and improving the advocacy and organizational capacities of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) at different levels, with a special focus on the Civil Society Organization Working Group on Land Rights. After the passage of the law, the project, in collaboration with the Liberia Land Authority, will support communities to self-identify, manage their land in line with the new law and provide legal assistance where needed. Stakeholders at different levels shall be linked to ensure the documentation of challenges and lessons learnt in the execution of the Land Rights Act in Liberia.
According to EU representative Alberto Menghini (Head of Cooperation Section Resilience) EU Delegation in Monrovia) "Secure access to land and secure land tenure and use rights are prerequisites for higher productivity of smallholder farmers. Effective national land policies and laws are essential. The EU promotes the establishment of a land tenure system that can ensure equitable access to land and natural resources, and ultimately improve agricultural productivity and food security".
Supporting the statement of the EU representative, Franziska Kerting speaking on behalf of Welthungerhilfe Liberia cautioned the audience that “Farmers in Liberia face several challenges” and “ownership of land will encourage them to deal with those challenges by investing in irrigation systems, soil fertility and erosion control mechanisms” and “it will attract donors as well as investors from abroad to support much needed agricultural infrastructure.” “The Passage of Liberia’s land rights Act will increase women’s decision making power and improve family livelihoods”, said the Project Manager of CAFOD, Amina Bello. She stressed that “such women empowerment will further contribute to the eradication of poverty”. In addition, Nora, Dowier, SDI Coordinator, pointed out that “The promotion and protection of customary land rights is essential to Liberia’s national development.” Mr. James Yarsiah, civils society Land Rights Activist concluded his statement by saying: ‘’One of the greatest legacies of this era will be the enactment of the Liberia New Land Rights Act’’.
At the launch event SDI, CAFOD, WHH and their implementing partners made a strong plea to the National Legislature to pass the Land Rights Bill into law and support the National Civil Society Working Group on Land Rights in their efforts to include in the law the following considerations:
Public land and protected areas need to be designated in a transparent and participatory process that seeks prior consultation and an informed consent of communities affected.
A re-classification or designation without Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) of local communities should automatically be considered null and void.
The sale of customary land is only possible after 60 years or two generations to protect the interest of the future generations.
To ensure access to the communal forest areas by the communities who rely upon these forests for their basic survival, a provision on how these communal forests shall be managed should be included in the LRB.
The LRA will be encouraged:
To be gender responsive in all provisions where applicable and provide special recognition to vulnerable groups.
To include a grievance mechanisms to redress grievances by citizens against government agents, national actors, and local leaders.
To include Civil Society Organizations as partners in the implementation of the law to provide technical assistance to the Liberian Land Authority and to provide support to communities.
Liberia’s land rights and land tenure status is under revision and in 2014, a revised and updated Land Rights Act (LRA) was developed and submitted by the former Land Commission of Liberia (presently the Liberia Land Authority). The draft LRA recognizes the ownership of Customary Land, a complex system of land rights and principles which include: “the right to possess and use the land and all natural resources thereon”. The LRA is under review and debate in the National Legislature awaiting its passage. Views among civil society actors, International Organizations and Liberians themselves are that the Land Rights Act will contribute to the consolidation of peace and democracy and provide opportunity for economic growth with protection for investors to invest in Liberia. Especially farmers will benefit from the Land Rights Act and will be enabled to focus on sustainable food and nutrition security in Liberia by increasing their production to feed the growing Liberian population.