MONROVIA – The three-day event presented an opportunity to take stock of progress made towards the implementation of the Land Rights Act (LRA) of 2018. From conceptualization, implementation, and the commemoration of three years of implementation, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UNFAO) has provided both technical and financial support to the Government of Liberia through the Liberia Land Authority and relevant civil society organizations to enhance the full implementation of the Land Rights Acts.
Beyond FAO’s technical and financial support, the collaboration presented a unique opportunity to better understand and identify critical and strategic programmatic interventions that are most relevant to improving the implementation of the LRA.
Amongst other things, FAO support has also centered on the Voluntary Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Forest and Fisheries (VGGT) in Liberia, increasing public understanding and capacity enhancement toward tenure governance issues, and harnessing advocacy and gender consideration in the implementation of the LRA.
This partnership and collaboration have strengthened the implementation of the VGGT activities in Liberia with the active involvement of local government officials and other key stakeholders.
The National Land Conference comprised a host of senior level government officials from the Liberia Land Authority, the National Legislature, Members of the Superintendent Council of Liberia, and Ministry of Agriculture.
The occasion also brought together representatives and heads of International Organizations, Diplomatic Missions, and a host of civil society organizations in Liberia. Representing FAO Country Representative (Madam Mariatou Njie), Ms. Mehnaz Ajmal Paracha, FIRST Policy Officer applauded the Government for the sustained partnership and reaffirmed FAO’s commitment to working with the Government of Liberia. Ms. Paracha emphasized that at the local level, ‘’Efficient and sustainable use of agricultural land is vital for boosting crop yields and can contribute to the growing demand for food’’.
Also speaking at the ceremony, the Superintendent of Grand Bassa County, Hon. Janjay Baikpeh who doubles as the Chairperson of the Superintendent Council of Liberia welcomed everyone and stressed this important point, ‘’when there is a land conflict, we are the ones who risk our lives by going to the villages to settle disputes’’.
For this reason, he emphasized the need for local government involvement in the full implementation of the LRA. He further encouraged all stakeholders to remain committed to the full implementation of the Land Rights Act and highlighted that land is an important resource that must be dealt with concertedly and seriously to improve lives.
Also speaking at the conference, the official launcher and keynote speaker, Hon. Vincent Willie reaffirmed overwhelming support of Government of Liberia to the implementation of the LRA and cautioned all partners to use the conference as a learning experience towards informed decision making for economic development. Hon Vincent recognized the efforts of our FAO colleague (Ms. Florence Malorbah Dorley) for her level of commitment in constantly engaging with relevant members of the Liberian Legislature on related land rights issues since 2018.
The rest of the speakers highlighted the significant role that proper land management and governance play in sustaining peace and fostering economic development in every country like Liberia. To this end, they called for greater gender consideration, the development of a national land use plan, and more collaboration and improved coordination in the implementation of the Land Rights Act.
Importantly so, FAO strategic involvement in the implementation of the Land Rights Act is linked to its programme priorities in Liberia (Output four of its Country programming Framework) and also partly aligned to Output 2.2 of the UNSDCF, which seeks to facilitate a community-driven approach towards ensuring the sustainable use of natural resources including land, water, and forests. Additionally, this is connected to pillar three of the PAPD, which further prioritizes access to land rights and promoting land tenure security.
The three-day conference ended with theadoption of the GBEHZOHN DECLARATION largelyprofferedbyGovernment Ministries, Agencies, Commissions, local Government representatives, and community-based organizations from the fifteen (15) counties of Liberia. Others included Civil Society Organizations, private sector actors, international institutions and donor partners.