Monrovia — The Liberia Land Authority (LLA), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and customary land-owning communities have made a commitment to enhancing partnership, aiming to address obstacles in the customary land formalization process across Liberia.
The decision to bolster their collaboration emerged from a two-day Community Land Dialogue (CLD) held at a local hotel in Monrovia. Organized by the Civil Society Working Group (CSOWG) in cooperation with the LLA, the dialogue, funded by the Rights & Resources Initiative (RRI), took place from August 16 to 17, 2023, under the theme: “Customary Land Dialogue: Identifying Lessons, Finding Solutions, and Deepening Efforts to Strengthen Community Land Rights.”
The CLD focused on the implementation of the Customary Land component of the Land Rights Act (LRA), promoting dialogue between local land-owning communities and the Liberia Land Authority. The event aimed to share information, discuss progress, achievements, challenges, and lessons learned regarding Customary Land Formalization (CLF).
Presentations at the dialogue covered topics such as the influence of customary norms on women and marginalized groups’ land rights during community formalization, effective approaches to Customary Land Formalization, analyzing issues during Boundary Harmonization and Confirmatory Surveys, and the perspective of community rights on Proposed Protected Areas (PPAs).
Representatives from seven of Liberia’s fifteen counties participated, including Sinoe, RiverCess, Grand Bassa, RiverGee, Bong, Lofa, Grand Cape Mount, Margibi, and Bomi.
Madam Gbolu Flomo, Co-Chairperson of the Community Land Development Management Committee (CLDMC) from Lofa County, conveyed the challenges faced by communities and called on the Liberia Land Authority and partners for support. She stressed the need for resolution of boundary issues and clear guidance on the use of tribal certificates.
“We want LLA and partners to help us. We want you to harmonize boundary issues between the various communities. This is increasing conflicts among us. Some powerful people in the various communities are using tribal certificates to take community land. We want a clear explanation on the use of the tribal certificate,” Madam Lorpu said.
Participants expressed their concerns about delayed land deeds and the lack of communication regarding the issues they were facing.
Ma Lorpu Kollie, Paramount of Zota District in Bong County, said “We are still waiting on the government so that we can get our land. While we are fighting to get our land, some big people are using their power to take our land. The government needs to do something about it or else there will be serious problems in this country.”
Collaborative solutions were formulated during the dialogue, including regular updates and inter-sectoral engagements, resolving boundary issues, government land survey in customary communities, and more.
At the dialogue’s conclusion, Lincoln Flomo, the Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Officer at the LLA, emphasized the importance of collaboration for successful customary land formalization.
“To achieve customary land formalization and rights, ownership and access, we have to work together. We cannot move without you. This is why we see this as collaboration. Beyond this dialogue, please talk to us at any time,” Flomo said.
Cllr. Kula Jackson, Deputy Commissioner for Policy & Planning at the LLA, highlighted the economic and community-level benefits that come with securing land deeds. “When the communities get their deeds, it gives them the leverage and we will start to see that economic viability and self-sustainability at the community level,” she noted.
Madam Bowier, in her closing remarks, highlighted the significance of dialogue and collaboration in moving forward, while acknowledging the role of CSOs in supporting communities.
“This dialogue is a step forward. We are disembarking from a stage of confrontation to a stage of collaboration. We hope that this can be sustained. There will always be disagreement, but we always need to come around the table to dialogue.
The CSOWG, with financial support from the Rights & Resources Initiative (RRI), is executing a project focused on advocating for the protection of customary land rights, aiming to secure long-term ownership and land rights for communities.