Liberia: Foreign Minister Maxwell Kemayah Pledges Government’s Support to Land Authority, Partners to Scale Up customary Land Formalization
Monrovia – The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dee Maxwell Saah Kemayah, Sr. has pledged the Government of Liberia’s commitment to fully implementing the Land Rights Act (LRA).
The LRA, a landmark law legislated by the Liberian Government in 2018, gives communities’ exclusive rights to their land.
Under the law, communities can claim ownership of customary land by presenting evidence such as oral testimonies, maps, and signed agreements with neighbors.
However, to get the deeds for their customary land, there are several steps communities must go through, and in most cases, these steps are tedious and costly.
Delivering the keynote address at the beginning of a two-day national learning and experience sharing conference on customary land formalization on Thursday, Minister Kemayah, on behalf of President George Weah, assured the Liberia Land Authority (LLA) and its partners including civil society and international development partners of the government’s support to scale up customary land formalization across the country.
“We remain committed to this process because we believe, without any doubt that customary land formalization provides a solid foundation on which, as a country, we are building our pursuit of inclusive development, peace and shared prosperity,” Minister Kemayah said.
He said customary land formalization creates a pathway for the rural population to enter into the formal economy, to engage with financial institutions and the wider private sector, and enter into mutually beneficial business relationships.
Speaking further, he noted that evidence shows that secured land tenure and ownership is good for responsible land and natural resources governance and management, adding that when the rights of people to own their land is guaranteed, they are encouraged to invest in that land and to manage in ways that their unborn children will inherit good and quality land for their own development.
He added that people across rural Liberia will also be encouraged to invest more in the agriculture sector; especially for cash crop production because their investment will be protected by law.
On behalf of President Weah, he lauded government’s international development partners including USAID, European Union, the UN and its agencies, the World Bank and the Swedish Government, among others that are working with the LLA to support customary land formalization.
According to him, since the passage of the law, civil society organizations with support from these bilateral and multilateral agencies are supporting 82 communities, covering more than 1.3 million hectares of land in ten counties to formalize their land rights and secure deeds for their collective; and these combined efforts are benefiting more than 350,000people directly and indirectly.
The Foreign Minister further said while the government encourages the civil society to accelerate, scale up and expand their activities to the remaining five counties that are not yet benefiting from similar support, the Government of Liberia will do its part to support the LLA to commence confirmatory surveys in the communities that have completed the Customary Land formalization process.
Confirmatory survey is the final step in acquiring a deed for customary land.
Other speakers include Swedish Ambassador, Ingrid Wetterqvist, Vera Kellen, EU Delegation Representative and Ms. Nonette Royo, executive direct of the Tenure Facility, amongst others.
Meanwhile, the conference, held at the Ministerial Complex in Congo town, is being organized by the Liberia Land Authority in collaboration with the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), the Foundation for Community Initiatives (FCI) and Parley Liberia.
It brought together major stakeholders including local and traditional leaders and CSOs to share lessons learned from early efforts to implement the 2018 Land Rights Act.
Following the passage of the Land Rights Act, SDI, FCI and Parley Liberia, a consortium of CSOs, launched the Protection of Customary Collective Community Land Rights in Liberia (P3CL) project, to mobilize 24 communities in eight of the 15 counties and support them to the implement the Land Rights Act. The P3CL project is funded by the Swedish-based International Land and Forest Tenure Facility.
Silas Siakor, the conference coordinator, speaking earlier said the goal of the two-day conference is to provide citizens and CSOs the opportunity to share their experiences and lessons learned from the implementation of the Land Rights Act and to determine how implementation of the law can be scaled up effectively and efficiently.
“Basically, we want to create a space for people from the communities and the NGO sector to come together to talk about how the implementation of the law is going,’’ Siakor said.
“The understanding of the law is different from community to community. For example, the law says men and women should have equal access to land, but what the law mandates and what people are thinking on the ground are different, so we need to discuss these issues and find ways of dealing with them as we move forward.’’