Liberian Foreign Minister Dee-Maxwell Saah Kemayah, Sr. has disclosed that there is evidence that secured tenure and ownership is good for responsible land and natural resource governance and management, stating that this is because when the rights of the people to own their land are guaranteed, they are encouraged to invest in that land and to manage it in ways that their unborn children, will inherit good quality land for their own development.
“We believe that it will also encourage people across rural Liberia to invest more in the agriculture sector; especially for cash crop production because their investment will be protected by law”, Minister Kemayah indicated.
Serving as the keynote speaker at the Customary Land Formalization National Learning and experience Sharing conference, organized by the Liberia Land Authority (LLA) and partners, held on February 25, 2021, at the Ministerial Complex in Congo Town, Ambassador Kemayah said on behalf of His Excellency, President George Manneh Weah, and the entire government, extend heartfelt thanks to all those stakeholders that are working with the Land Authority to support Customary Land formalization.
“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”.
“On behalf of His Excellency Dr. George Manneh Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia; I assure that this government is committed to supporting the Land Authority, and its civil society and international development partners, 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”, Foreign Minister Kemayah assured the participants at the conference.
The Foreign Minister said stakeholders have made significant strides in implementing the law. “I am particularly pleased to note that nationally, civil society organizations are actively supporting more than 82 communities, covering more than 1.3 million hectares of land, in 10 counties to formalize their land rights and secure deeds for their collective land. These efforts are benefiting more than 350,000 people directly and indirectly”.
Speaking Earlier the Swedish Ambassador to Liberia, Ambassador Ingrid Wetterqvist said they together advised the communities, the public, the private, and development partners to review the implementation of the customary land formalization, to exonerate glaring development and recommendations and consolidate…for future efforts.
“Why is Sweden engaged in Liberia land reform? They are many challenges regarding land reforms, we also strongly believe that there are opportunities that exist for Liberia to overcome these challenges to optimize its significant potentials to reduce poverty and conflict, promoting every culture and economic development. Some of the challenges include inadequate infrastructure, and capacities are land problems”, Ambassador Wetterqvist intoned.
The Swedish Ambassador voiced that many of the land records, including maps, deeds, and resources were also destroyed during the civil wars.
“The problem of multiple and competing claiming rights over lands has resulted in disputes including the existence of borders between most of these units such as counties, districts, and clans…there is also a big component of gender inequality, the weakened protection of women’s right to land especially for urban driven poor women without literacy. The rapid increase in urban population has intensified pressure on ancestral urban land, unresolved land disputes present threats to national peace if they are not adequately addressed, and this was also identified in your TRC report in 2009”.
“We thank you all at the moment for new opportunities; we are pleased to see the progress and the positive momentum in Liberia in land reform. In 2016 the LLA was established, coming out of its predecessor the Liberia Land Commission, the land authority has a clear and comprehensive mandate for land governance and administration. In 2018, Liberia National Legislature created the Liberia Land Rights Act which provides the overall framework as well as guarantee for customary land rights”, Ambassador Wetterqvist noted.
For his part, Cllr. Kula Jackson, a commissioner at the LLA said the roles of LLA is to ensure quality control and systemic formalization of customary land, noting that the LLA has verified steps completed by CSOs assisting communities verification of the customary land formalization is achieved through the conduct of key informants interviews, focus group discussion and general town hall meetings to assess community knowledge and participation.