Monrovia – Local communities across Liberia seem to be taking advantage of the new Land Rights Law to reclaim their ancestral land. With more than 1.3 million hectares of Customary Land now under formal community ownership and control, the future seems to be getting brighter for local communities across the country.
Information gathered at the just ended national learning and experience sharing conference on Customary Land formalization, indicates that more than 100 communities have made significant progress towards completing the process for securing deeds to their land.
According to the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), Foundation for Community Initiatives (FCI), Parley Liberia, and IDH the Sustainable Trade Initiative, the organizations that hosted the just ended conference in partnership with the Liberia Land Authority, they have supported a total of 82 communities in ten counties covering more 1.3 million hectares of land to reclaim their ancestral land.
An estimated 350,000 people are benefiting directly and indirectly from their projects, according to the four organizations.
Leading the count is the Dutch non-profit organization IDH, working with Liberian NGOs, that has since 2019 supported 68 communities to formalize their ownership and control of more than 780,000 hectares of land. Coming in closed second is the Liberian NGO consortium comprising of SDI, Parley and FCI that is supporting 24 communities covering more than 580,000 hectares of land in eight counties.
The International Land and Forest Tenure Facility, based in Stockholm, Sweden is supporting the Liberian NGOs. The Swedish and Norwegian Governments are two of the key donors supporting the Tenure Facility.
IDH confirmed that its work in Liberia is also supported by the Norwegian Government through the Norway International Climate and Forest Initiative commonly known as NICFI.
It can be recalled that the Government of Norway, signed a bilateral agreement with the Government of Liberia in 2014, and committed United States Dollars $150 million to fight deforestation across Liberia. The Forestry Development Authority, through the Liberia Forest Sector Project is currently implementing projects under the bilateral agreement with Norway. The Liberia Land Authority is also benefiting from the Liberia Forest Sector Project.
After a decade of widespread land conflicts between communities and concessionaires across Liberia, the Government of Liberia seems to be changing course.
Mr. Dee-Maxwell Saah Kemayah, Sr. Minister of Foreign Affairs, delivering the keynote address at the opening of the just ended conference on Customary Land formalization stressed that “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”.
He furthered that “Customary Land formalization provides a solid foundation on which to build our pursuit of inclusive development, peace and shared prosperity”, a strikingly different approach to the policies of the Ellen Johnson led-administration that granted millions of hectares of land to foreign companies in its 12 years in power.
Silas Siakor, the coordinator of the conference and one of Liberia’s renowned community rights activist, and now a major player in the land sector lauded the government on the sidelines of the conference, “although we aggressively campaigned for land rights back in the days, I had no idea that this day would come – when the government would clearly stand with communities in their efforts to secure their land rights.”