Partners: 
Non Governmental organization

About Landesa

Landesa partners with governments and local organizations to ensure that the world’s poorest families have secure rights over the land they till. Founded as the Rural Development Institute, Landesa has helped more than 105 million poor families gain legal control over their land since 1967. When families have secure rights to land, they can invest in their land to sustainably increase their harvests and reap the benefits—improved nutrition, health, and education—for generations.

Civil Society Organization

Rights and Rice Foundation (RRF) is a Liberian non-governmental organization registered with the overall aim of working for social justice and community empowerment.  Since 2007 RRF has implemented several programs and projects supported by donors and funding agencies like UN Women, UNDP, USAID, GIZ and Welthungerhilfe. Today RRF works around three key thematic pillars, namely: political and economic governance, community empowerment and conflict mediation. RRF now implements seven programs in 10 of Liberia’s 15 counties.

Civil Society Organization

To achieve our Goal, we are campaigning for an unprecedented mobilization of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, governments, intergovernmental organizations, corporate and other private sector actors, civil society, social movements, and citizens from all over the world. To realise the change we want, we ask that by 2020…

Non Governmental organization

Our Vision

Our vision is a just world without poverty. We want a world where people are valued and treated equally, enjoy their rights as full citizens, and can influence decisions affecting their lives.

Our Purpose

Our purpose is to help create lasting solutions to the injustice of poverty. We are part of a global movement for change, empowering people to create a future that is secure, just, and free from poverty.

The Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), Landesa, and the Land Portal Foundation are co-facilitating an online discussion on Liberia's Land Rights Bill (LRB) that may soon be voted on by the Liberian National Legislature. This discussion is also supported by Rights & Rice Foundation, Habitat for Humanity International, Oxfam, and the Land Rights Now campaign.

Background

Liberia has not yet enacted a comprehensive land law. According to existing laws, all lands not previously deeded to a private party are classified as Public Land. Since the end of  civil war, Liberia's struggle to enact a land law, coupled with its weak land and natural resources management systems, contributed to tenure insecurity and an increased rate of large-scale land concessions to private investors.

In an attempt to address this issue, the Liberian government started a land reform process in 2009 with the establishment of a Land Commission. In May of 2013, the Land Commission presented a draft Land Rights Policy (LRP) to the President. This draft was officially adopted by a diverse group of Liberians, including government officials, traditional chiefs, community members, and civil society organizations. Following the validation of the Land Rights Policy in 2013, the Land Commission drafted a Land Rights Bill designed to provide a legal framework to implement the LRP. A key provision in the LRB defines four main categories of tenure in Liberia: Private Land, Customary Land, Government Land and Public Land. This provision has strong implications for the millions of rural Liberians who currently do not have formalized land rights. 

Since 2013, the Legislature has conducted multiple private and public consultations and public hearings. These interventions resulted in significant changes to the LRB. In 2017, a version of the Bill was passed by the House of Representatives. However, according to Liberian Civil Society, the version passed by the House is a dramatic departure from the LRP and significantly waters down provisions designed to protect customary land rights. Many civil society organizations in Liberia are working tirelessly to ensure the LRB is revised so as to safeguard customary land rights. At the international level, the Land Rights Now campaign recently published an issue brief with several recommendations for reforming the LRB.

The overall objectives of this online discussion are to:
 
  1. To meaningfully contribute to the discussion around the LRB and on-going land reform process in Liberia
  2. To share relevant information that supports the passage of a version of the LRB that will safeguard the land rights of rural Liberians.

Findings from the discussion can contribute to the development of an adequate regulatory framework for safeguarding communities, groups, and individuals with customary tenure rights. The discussion will focus on the following questions:

 

1. Recognition of Customary Land Rights for All: What do you think about the entitlement of one acre in fee simple (deeded land in customary residential areas) for each member of a community? Should customary land be sold?

2. Issues with Tribal Certificate: How should the law deal with Tribal Certificate in Customary Land?

3. Protecting women and minority land rights in Customary Land Tenure: How should the law protect women, minority and vulnerable people in customary land tenure systems?

4. Protected Areas: How should the government reconcile the issue of customary land rights in protected areas?

5. Existing Concessions and other land grants:  With a large land area in the country (mostly Customary Land) already granted through concessions, what should be the role of communities in the renegotiation of concessions?

Please join the discussion from July 18- August 8 by registering as a Land Portal user and submitting a comment. Stay tuned for more details!

Comments

Liberia is at a cross-road. The Land Rights Bill (LRB) that was developed through a consultative process and hailed by international partners is still lingering in the corridors of the National Legislature. What is even more concerning is the modifications that have been done on the original version of the LRB that was developed in 2014. Civil society and pressure groups are now asking the administration of President Weah to “score a goal” or pass a land rights bill that will be in the interest of rural Liberians. As the Liberian people and international partners are asking the Liberian Government to make this historic decision by giving full land rights to rural Liberians, we have dedicated July 18 to August 8, 2018 to discuss contentious issues in the LRB. We are asking people to respond to the weekly discussion questions that will be posted. We welcome your comments. 

I would like to share my exeperience with Land Policy formulation in Zambia. One Tribal Chief advised that 'you cannot milk a cow that you have sold'. In short, he is for leasing customary land and returning the proceeds to the community. In this respect, he has presided over an increasingly self reliant social system that is able to run 'free education' community schools and provide other public services to the people in his area. I think that Liberia would benefit from this model.

 

The 2018 election of President George Weah was a watershed moment for Liberia, marking the first peaceful, democratic transition of power in five decades. Mr. Weah’s ascension from global football star to the presidency is the latest sign that Liberia is emerging from its turbulent past toward a more prosperous future for all of its people.

President Weah has rightly prioritized the need for Liberia to pass comprehensive land reform, making rural land rights a theme of his inaugural address to the nation in January of 2018. With debate over the country’s Land Rights Bill entering its fifth year, the opportunity to reform its land laws and safeguard the rights of rural communities is already before Liberia’s government. What’s important now is that the legislature passes a version of the bill that provides full rights to land for all Liberians, including women, minority groups, and those living on customary land.

As CEO of Landesa, I thank you for your contribution to this discussion, and look forward to seeing the expert advice and recommendations that emerge.

While President Weah’s Inaugural address signaled support for customary land rights, his State of the Nation address (a week later) sent a somewhat confusing message about priorities. He disclosed to the Legislature his intention to submit bills granting dual citizenship, as well as a bill to grant citizenship to non-blacks. It is important to note that the two bills have implications for land access. Addressing dual citizenship and granting citizenship to non-blacks without firstly securing the tenure of customary holders would be a misordering of priorities. 

What is most pressing at the moment is to secure customary land rights. If we get this initial step done, then we could consider other possibilities lest the wealthy dual citizens and “non-blacks” would buy away significant swathes of land, thus effectively dispossessing the customary poor. Mr. Weah has to do more to demonstrate support for customary land rights.

Thanks for the comments! one major area of debate in the current Land Rights Bill is a provision seeking to deed a percentage of land claimed through Tribal certificates (TCs). TC is an instrument used as the beginning point of purchasing what was then called “Public Land” (non-deeded land). Tribal Certificate has no uniformed standard or measurement – no preliminary survey, an area of land (measure in acres) was randomly put on each TC. Also, while some acquired legitimate TCs loopholes (only chiefs consented) in the attainment of TC led to many elites to acquire large tracks of land that have yet to be deeded.

 

The 2014 version of the LRB indicated that all valid TCs that were not turned into deeds remain part of the customary land where the TC was acquired. The holder of a valid TC would be entitled to lease amount of land of the TC for up to 50 years and could purchase no more than 25 acres. In the 2017 version passed by the House of Representatives, 100 per cent of the developed portion of the TC land would be deeded and held in fee simple by the owner. The undeveloped portion would be divided in half with the TC holder taking 50 per cent and the customary community taking the other 50 per cent. Given TCs were issued without proper instruments, transparency, or measurement – no inventory of Tribal Certificate issued, what happens if a land claim encroaches on available community farm land? what are your thoughts on this?

With about 40 percent of West Africa’s remaining Upper Guinea rainforests, Liberia is at the front end of the climate change debate. At the same time, the country has valuable mineral resources like iron old and gold, attracting several multi-national mining companies. In addition, the country dense forest resources and relatively low population makes the land space a promising location for logging and agro-plantation concessions. In fact, these land use activities – mining, logging and agro-plantation concessions – have dominated land policy framework and laws, resulting to over 30% of the country’s land space contracted to foreign investors. Meanwhile, the land rights of ordinary Liberian, especially rural communities, remained a low priority for past governments. The challenge is, Liberia has yet to pass a comprehensive land policy and land law. According to existing laws, all lands not previously deeded to a private party are classified as Public Land (PL). However, since 2006 the Government of Liberia (GOL) has passed a significant body of land reform legislation that seeks to protect the land claims of ordinary Liberian citizens, in particular rural populations. The National Forestry Reform Law of 2006 (NFRL) and Community Rights Law of 2009 grant paperless communities the right to manage their own communal forest land and resources. The draft Land Rights Bill (LRB) of 2014 promises communities the opportunity to own, occupy, and use their customary land and its resources, and includes a key provision that allows communities to benefit from income-generating activities on their land, such as farming, logging, mining, conservation and tourism. Despite numerous efforts to pass the Land Rights Bill, the Bill has not yet passed and remains in the corridors of the Legislature since 2014. There are still points of contention related to the provisions and articles in the customary land rights category of the LRB. To this end, the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), Landesa, the Land Portal Foundation, Rights & Rice Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, and the Land Rights invite you to participate in a discussion on the LRB that is before the Liberian Legislature. The discussions will bring together the perspectives of researchers, particularly those associated with land reforms in developing countries, international organizations, government officials, elders, practitioners and local Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) on the Bill. It will also focus on the different arguments and viewpoints that have shaped the current version of the LRB. We invite you to join the discussion. The discussion starts on Wednesday, July 18 and ends on August 8th 2018.

Article 39 of the draft Land Rights Act states -

1. Residential Area shall include all Land on which a resident resides.

2. A resident irrespective of gender, shall be entitled to a Residential Area for
his or her exclusive possession and use as a residence provided that no
more than one (1) acre of land shall be granted to a Resident.

3. Every Residential Area shall have the same legal status as Private Land
and a Resident shall be entitled to hold and keep his or her Residential
Area in perpetuity.

1. Given that residential plots do not include agricultural parcels (provided for
separately in the law), a parcel of ‘no more of a quarter of an acre’ is more
appropriate. Bear in mind that each generation will see expansion.

2. The right to exclusive possession already customarily exists, and the right to sell the
house is justified. Whether sale should include the land on which the house-plot sits,
is another matter.

3. On sale and speculation: as currently drafted, the risk is high of every adult acquiring
a parcel to sell on, then demanding allocation of a new plot – possibly to sell on
again. Already by giving each adult, rather than a family, the right to her/his own
house-plot, the Residential Area will double in size – in this generation alone. Loss of
farmland and forestland in the community area will be dramatic.

I suggest the following be added to Article 39:

Each adult member of the community is entitled to allocation of only one
quarter-acre residential parcel or less, should the Community Land
Development and Management Committee determine that in light of
population growth and future generation needs that the area cannot sustain
expansion of plots.

Every sale must be approved by a full meeting of the Community Land
Development and Management Committee and priority given to existing
adult community members who possess no residential plot of their own.

Proposed expansion and parcel allocation of Residential Areas is subject to
community approval in accordance with Article 36, and must be balanced
with consideration of present and future community requirements for farm
and forest lands.

4. On root title to house plot lands/Residential Areas:

An exclusive, private usufruct, held in perpetuity, able to be bequeathed or gifted, or
sold, is fully viable, without this necessarily involving the absolute sale of the land
itself. The owner of the usufruct is fully protected.

It is not clear in Article 39 if root title to the land remains with the community in
common or is sold absolutely. Articles 32 (1) and 33(1) imply that the land remains
common property and it is the exclusive right to residential parcels that is exclusive
and saleable.

If this is not the case, legislators could carefully consider how far it is necessary for
these private parcels to include the land itself, which, in customary and collectively
managed circumstances, is preferably retained by the community in common.

From the parable of milking a cow, Choolwe is encouraging us not to sell customary land. Instead, we should encourage leasing and perhaps in the words of Liberian historian, Dr. Joseph Guannu, leasing land “for an indefinite period”.  Yes, Choolwe says, if the cow is there, you can always milk it but if you sell the animal, your production of milk might end. Does Choolwe have a point here? Forbade any sale of customary land?

 

What do you make of Liz's recommendation restricting residential land to only one
quarter-acre or less, should the Community Land Development and Management Committee (CLDMC) determine that in light of population growth and future generation needs that the area cannot sustain expansion of plots? How will this determination of population growth and future generation needs be made? Does the CLDMC have the capacity to perform such calculation?

Liz, when you suggested that “Every sale must be approved by a full meeting of the Community Land Development and Management Committee and priority given to existing adult community members who possess no residential plot of their own”, are you talking about selling residential land to outsiders who are not Members of the Community? Or are you talking about the division of residential plots to Community Members? The bill says no Members of a Community should be deprived of residential land.

 

Keep your comments coming in.

I do agreed that portion of customary land be given to residents/members as residential area, but amount of acreage (one) is what am concern about . The draft LRA gives residents the power to sell any portion of their residential land in customary community. That clause strengthens land rights of community members and creates the opportunity for them to empower themselves and their communities, give them a say as well as make-decisions regarding their lives.

Even though customary lands were not sold according to customary norms and practices years back because it is believe to be gift from God and that it should be for the good of all people now and posterity. However, today, the very sons and daughters who are literate, economically empowered or so-called civilized return to their community and acquired large portion of land through TC. Those TCs are processed into deeds/fee simple in their names with or without the consent of the elders in the community.

I agree there are at least two key issues related to private lands in the Bill. One is the allocation of residential land to community residents in fee simple (private) ownership. The other is the conversion of Tribal Certificates to deeds. Both processes must be scrutinized closely in the Act to be sure that they do not further entrench existing inequalities in access and control over land within communities. Gender-related issues are of particular concern. 

 

We know that insecure land rights are at the root of much of the conflict and violence we have seen in Liberia. The Land Rights Bill (LRB) presents a critical moment to secure the ancestral rights of millions of our citizens to their lands and resources. With this groundbreaking piece of law, we have in hand a potential solution to many of the problems that plague our country: poverty, conflict, deforestation environmental issues, etc. However, the LRB hangs in the balance with provisions on customary land rights still being debated. We call on you, our friends and partners, to join us in this debate

Gmasonah Togba, this has been a heated debate. What would you suggest as an appropriate size of land to deed to community members? Can such a land be sold? And suppose a community member sells his or her parcel of land; can they qualify for an additional allotment? What would be the status of the new land holder to the community?

My concern is that the most recent version of the Bill may not even contain the one acre limit for residential land allocations. Whether the right size is 1/4 acre, as Liz Alden Wiley suggests, or 1 acre, as was in previous versions of the Bill, it seems very important for the Bill to name some maximum amount to ensure that the land transfered is really for residential use, and to prevent significant disparity in the amount allocated to residents.

 

Tribal Certificate need to be vetted properly by each community. In fact I think all "un-deeded" land claim should return to the community and each Tribal Certificate holder can work with the community and appropriate national and local authorities to retrieve their land claim from the community. The decision must ultimately rest with the community otherwise we are back to square one, whereby few people will privatize customary land and control rural communities...

Privatizing Customary land is not good a good idea at all. I think it would destroy customary land. In fact, the Land Rights Bill (LRB) placed a 50 yr moratorium on the sell of customary land.

Passage of the Land Rights Bill in its current form would be a huge step forward for peace, stability and rural economic development in Liberia. It will be important that advocates track the Bill carefully, however, to ensure that these benefits can be equally shared by men and women. Both the provision on the allocation of residential land in private ownership to community residents, and the provisions related to transforming Tribal Certificates to deeds (private ownership documents) raise very important issues regarding women's land rights. 

In earlier versions of the Bill, the definition of "resident" as someone who had lived in a community for at least 15 years (or, in an even earlier version, 7 years) would have excluded any wife from receiving a land alloation if she had moved to her husband's community within the specified period of time. This could effectively exclude many, if not most, women living in a given rural community from eligibility to receive residential land. Even if wives were able to share the residence allocated to their husbands in private ownership, they would not have any formal interest in this right, and so would have no legal right to co-manage the property with their husband, and/or to help make decisions about whether or not to sell, lease or inherit the property. Nor would wives have any legal safeguard to their family home in the event of death of the husband or divorce.  I understand that the most recent version of the Bill provides that the definition of "resident" includes any spouse who lives in the same community where her spouse is also a resident. This provision is a striking improvement and should be safeguarded as the Bill moves forward, in order to avoid long-lasting gender bias in private land allocations within customary lands. 

Gender issues are also prominent in the question of whether and how to transform Tribal Certificates to deeds. Although some women are signatories to existing TCs, this is not often the case. One critical question is thus how to ensure that the process of transfering TCs to deeds does not result in exluding women by-and-large from private ownership in rural Liberia. As others in this dialogue have mentioned, TCs appear to cover much of the land held within customary communities. If this is true, the risk is that a vast area of customary land will be transferred into permanent private ownership by largely male TC-holders. It will thus be very important for conversion of TCs to include a rigorous review to explore and address gender biases. This could be stipulated in the current Bill (best), or could be addressed through implementing regulations. 

Jenifer wrote: “It will thus be very important for conversion of TCs to include a rigorous review to explore and address gender biases. This could be stipulated in the current Bill (best), or could be addressed through implementing regulations.” This is an important point. TCs are being claimed by a wide range of actors, individuals, families, and communities. Because TCs have no clear standards and were often acquired under a system that favored men, transferring such claims into private land could lead to the marginalization of different categories of women.

Concerning the entitlement of one acre in fee simple (deeded land in customary residential area) for each member of a community, I personally think it should be left with the community themselves to decide who is entitle to whatever portion of they want to give out and how such a land should be described. On the issues of whether customary land should be sold, there are some community that will agree for such a land to be sold and other communities may hold it under customary arrangement (no selling) but the community has to decide. it should be left with the community to decide.

With Tribal Certificate (TC), I think if the land has already been developed, to minimize conflicts it should go to whoever has developed it, but all undeveloped lands with tribal certificate holders should go back to the community and be renegotiated. This is the only way to deal with TC.

Samuel M. Morlubah is currently the Secretary of the National Traditional Council- Cultural Department. He previously worked with Township of Virginia, and also served as assistant to the Land Commissioner of Montserrado County-Liberia to resolved land issues in the County. Samuel does not have an email address:

"on the issues of entitlement of one acre in fee simple (deeded land in customary residential area) for each member of a community, I personally think that is not a good idea. It will not be prudent for each person to have one acre because the land will not be enough for everyone to share. For example you have demarcation of villages in the interior, from one Town to another. Towns are demarcated by roads, rivers, major creek, etc. So the inhabitants of a community in most case are more than the land space and the future community members need to be protected, which make it difficult to share the community land per one acre. This is a recipe for conflict. like late President Tolbert declared, customary land is to be used for farming, livelihood, and other things; not to be sold.

I think customary lands are lands that were inherited from one generation to another generation, and those who live there have total rights over that land but they cannot sale the land. Before a customary land can be sold, it should firstly be approved by government, because the Liberian Government has total ownership to land. If Government thinks that a land size is too large that a family cannot control or develop, a portion of the land should be taken from the family. This is the same problem I see with Tribal Certificate (TC). I think it should not become deed otherwise it will create a lot of problem for the government. For example, we have one case in which a family member is claiming 150 acre of land where the government has given gold mining concession. It is creating problem for everyone so I think TC needs to be renegotiated with the community with the approval of the Liberian Government.

Placing this (one acre per community member) in the law would create conflict. For example, if we are 10 children in a family that means each family member could have more than 10 acres in the town. Also, people with children in Monrovia could do the same. That will create a land rush, people rushing to privatize community land. Elites and powerful people could grab more land from the community. Communities already have a system to entitle people to land space for house spot and for farming. The decision should be left with the community. It should not be in the law. The community should decide if they want to privatize their residential land. The government can support the process through regulation and placing in grievance mechanisms.

TC should be vetted by the community. They should form part of the vetting team with a veto power. If the land is developed, the person could claim it but in mnay cases, the TC lands were acquired so many years ago and under difficult condition. Those that signed onto these TCs do not know the size of land they were signing on to. My thinking is, if a TC land is not developed the land should return to the community. Even if you had the land in good faith and was not able developed it that means the land goes back to the community. The size of communities has changed; communities have grown and some of the TC have huge amount of land. In short, I say all undeveloped TC land should be left with the community otherwise that could cheat the community.

I think the basic principle of the Land Rights Bill is to give communities full land ownership as is with private ownership; that is equal and full burden of rights and responsibility as private land right is. Why is the government proposing or imposing a special requirement or suggesting a requirement to customary communities? That’s like giving the man his goat but holding the rope. It shows that government still wants to determine what happens to customary land. My think is, there is no need for benchmarks only safeguards/regulations to protect people and the community.

On that note, I agree that communities should be able to deed/privatize residential areas as such a residential land could be traded on the open market. This should be determined by the community, though. the residential area will give community some commercial control over the land. People could sell, buy, and mortgage their residential land to improve their lives. We just need to educate the communities as to the danger of selling land. This should be our collective efforts, those of us interested in protecting the integrity of customary.

Tribal Certificate: we need to be careful with TCs because it could create a serious conflict within communities and between communities and TC holders. I start from the premise that the Supreme Court opinion is that tribal certificates are not deed. So I think we need to give more power to the community. TC holders could have 50% of developed land. The TC holder can ask the community to lease the remaining developed land, negotiated and validated by the government. If the land is not developed, it should go right back to the community.

Another challenge is, some TCs were acquired as a community or a large family. How should those be addressed? I am not sure.

In theory I am not against the idea but the question is whether they should sell that piece of land or not. My thinking is, selling the land will ultimately undermine the very purpose of customary which cannot be sold. This has been the core part of customary tenure arrangement in Liberia.

Consider this, if someone decides to buy half of the community land or the whole thing, what becomes of that community? Most of our communities will die or rapidly become private estates with community resident, squatter or worse, renters.

If the objective is to secure tenure rights for current use and future security, I think better if we remove this clause from the law.

TCs are really confusing so I will say all tribal certificates need to be researched and lay bare the implications before we mention it in any law. The clause is a premature push into customary land. It is embedded with a lot of conflicts. So, research before action. In the meantime, government should announce a moratorium on all TC.

Gender issue is normally tied to the right of women. Given that customary practice is often favors men my own position is to do more education and capacity development for women, and for the community at large. The law can try to ensure women representation but the main issue is at the family level. now, is this something you can regulate without affecting the social structure of customary communities...

Tribal certificate in Liberia is a very sensitive and critical issue that must be carefully reviewed before making a determination. TCs have not had been clear standards therefore they have to be scrutinized by the Land Authority, the Community, and relevant CSOs so to avoid the illegal possession of customary land. If a TC is legal, the holder can claim the developed land otherwise all undeveloped land should return to the community.

I think the idea of selling customary land is in no way going to benefit the people who live in rural communities where their livelihood and well-being is highly depended on land. in order to ensure sustainability, the rights of communities to have access to land must be secure and if a community decides to lease their land, then there must be an inclusive decision involving all community members along with the community land management committee. And importantly, such decision must reflect the customs, traditions and practices of the Community as per Article 36 of the Land Rights Bill.

Safe guarding and enforcing the Free Prior Informed (FPIC) Consent portion of the draft land rights bill for local communities will save those communities from the desaster of  becoming slaves to Large Scale Land Based Investors in their own hometowns. This is because when they are empowered and understand the importance of maintaing their livelihood and the damage of having it distorted for little or no amount that will leave them in poverty forever. 

The discussion with the Committee on Lands, Mines, Energy, Natural Resources and Environment at the Liberian Senate on Tribal Certificate, Management of Customary Land, Customary Land and Protected Area, etc has been positive to an extent reasonable enough that Civil Society Oragizations can live with the passage of the recent edition of the draft Land Rights Bill.

As for customary land, we firstly need to follow the procedure for the formalization process, after the procedure the customary people need to be regulated on the selling of customary land and therefore I will frown on giving deed for community land. If these people are not restricted will not have any customary left. In fact as we speak today the Land Rights Acts has not passed but people have started selling land abundantly in the county without even knowing how much land they have. If the sale of customary land is not rigorously regulated we will have the problems we trying to resolved, no land left for most of the community members and future generations. This could affect food and human security.

I think Tribal Certificates need to be recognized, because the same people who living on these land are the one who give out these tribal certificate and they can admit to it. We also need to do an inventory to know how many people have tribal certificate before we even start doing demarcation to give communities their rights to survey land. Giving communities rights to their customary land does not mean you should deprive people who had land there before. We must know how much land that has already been privately owned before we start doing allocation.

I don’t think we should marginalize or differentiate between people went it come to Customary Land. The issue of traditional people telling women that you are woman, you not are not supposed to talk about land, I think that time is over. So equal rights should be given to everyone regardless of your gender, religion, or ethnic background. I even think women can protect properties more than men because they always thinking about their children. so i agree that we need to include provisions that respect women and minority groups like including them on governance and making sure they are captured in all aspects of the law.

In theory, getting each community private land right in residential areas is a good thing but i am not sure if putting a cap of one acre is practical. to begin with, the population is increasing and there are community members out of the community, is it possible to get each adult one acre without affecting the right of future generation? I think we need to think about it but in my thinking the distribution of land should be left with each community deciding to give private land rights to community members. So, we can restrict such right to a family unit and such land should not be sold, leaving it within the family unit. In other words, each family unit can be entitled to a land right for a parcel of land in residential areas and that rights should not be sold but transfer within the family unit. And this right can only be used after a community has already surveyed their land.

Izatta, you have presented an interesting point: "[deeded land rights in customary land] should be left with each community each family unit can be entitled to a land right for a parcel of land in residential areas and that rights should not be sold but transfer within the family unit. And this right can only be used after a community has already surveyed their land." It would be good hear from others on this suggestion. Now, my question is, should a community member be allowed to lease such a land if so, should there 1) restriction on who can lease the land and 2) a time limit on how long such a land can be leased for?

totally advise against one acre per community member. From my experiencing working in rural communities in Liberia, I have seen places where one family has over 20 children and some of the family members are in Monrovia and other places. If you go with provision, it is possible for one family to dominate the community and use the community land as their private land. Those families will end up owning the whole community land. To address this, we can restrict this right to a family and make sure no one family have more than 25% of the residential land area.

The tribal certificate is a difficult thing because I have seen may community members using it to plant life trees. I don’t think you can take this from those community members but what we need to pay attention to the size of land being claimed by an individual or TC. May be it has to be modify it. For example, there can be a limit, say a TC may claim over 150 acre and any land that is not developed below that limit can return to the community. The population is growing and some communities are already stressed with limited land for agriculture.

This is not a relevant provision to be placed in the law. And I am sure if you include it, most of the people will try to go for the 1 acre limit and we know that this is not possible in some communities and people may start discriminating against others to get more land. In short, the membership of the community may not meet the size which may result to conflicts.

I am not sure why we are trying to privatize customary land. We already have tribal certificates why can’t we use that instead of deeding customary land for private exchange. I think the land of customary communities should not be share as our fathers did. It may cause future problems.

I am OK with giving each person or family in a rural community an acre of land or as agreed by the community but this land must not be sold; though it can transfer from parents to children or between spouses but should not be sold pr transfer over a long period outside of the family. this way, we can protect people currently living in communities by freezing their right to the community.

I think we have all agreed that women should have equal right to owning land as her male counter part. I am not sure how traditional communicates should be organized or governed but if a woman's husband passes on she should have the right to inherit her husband properties, including land. This has to be straightened in the law.

I think all tribal certificates should be renegotiated with the community. No one knows how much land is being claimed and type of land is being claim so I say tribal certificate should not be considered as deed, many of the elite have used that medium to acquired huge land from rural communities and most of the community members really do not know about these certificates and some TCs are encroaching on individual community members land or access right. Subkect all TCs, developed and undeveloped to community vetting.

My opinion is, tribal certificate is not a deed and should not be given a credence. If we try to make TCs with deed it could lead to serious problems in customary communities. some of the TC owners are not from these communities and really do not have any thing in common with the community, and most of them are really powerful. if you say any part of the TC is legitimate is opening a big hole in customary land. i am against it!

Tribal certificates have been a serious problem and they have led under development. It is common to hear "dont touch my land." and most of the times, it is TC lands. they have intimidated communities for too long. TCs should not be consider a deed. Each TC holder must go back to the community to legitimate their claim.

certificate should not be, it will result to serious problems, and it’s not to the benefits of the country. TCs have been abused for so long no one can tell how much land is out there and who owns what. We have been discussing this for over 3 years now and no one can still tell what's out there so whats the rush to make deed. we need to be careful with. I say keep it out of the law and create a path way to legitimacy after we have studied the situation a little it more. If we do not manage the right way it could create problem for everyone.

My opinion is, it is a good thing to give each family or person deeded land rights in community residential area but the size and type of right should be determined by each community not set by the national government. Some communities are already moving into this direction. I have lived and worked in River Cess and now i am working in River Gee, i can say we do not have a uniformed community in Liberia. Some communities have a lot of land and in other communities, not much. in some communities, individual holdings are recognized and already being privatized in practice so the decision should be made at the community level but I am OK with deeding residential areas.

My believe is, all Tribal Certificate, developed or otherwise should be reviewed by each community and determination made on the legitimacy of the TC. Such a review should be done in an inclusive, and transparent way, including women, youth, and elders. If the TC is seen as legitimate by the community as a whole thn TC should be able to stand as it and turn into deed. Otherwise if the TC is seen as illegitimate, the TC holder forfeit the land.

We appreciate all those that have contributed to this discussion. It gives us a snapshot of what those who are working on land reforms in Liberia and elsewhere are thinking concerning these very difficult but crucial issues. I have gone through all the comments. The comments are diverse but I will try to summarize them as best as possible. First, there is a consensus that decisions about land (whether land use or land sale) should be left with the community. The current version of the LRB that is before Senate that CSO and others worked on clearly includes this point. Second, more people are not in favor of setting a ceiling on the amount of residential land per individual and as Jennifer rightly pointed out in her comments, no ceiling is set up in the current version of the draft bill as that decision is left with community to determine. Third, more commentators are against the sale of any portion of customary land. The draft law currently maintains that a portion of customary land given to individual(s)can be converted to feel simple (private land, which gives the owner the power to sell).  

 

And fourth, with some exceptions, many people recommend that lands under Tribal Certificates (TC) (whether developed or undeveloped) should revert to the community. In the current draft law, all “developed” portions of a customary land will go to the developer as private land provided they complete the process of turning that land into deeded land within 24 months as of the effective date of the passage of the LRB. “Development” as introduced in this bill is vague and will have to be defined in regulations. The owner of an undeveloped portion of a TC land will have to renegotiate with the community if he or she is still interested in claiming such land.   

 

An important point that Izatta raised, which Ali touched on briefly is the granting of land to what Izatta calls “family unit”. The family unit is an important concept that others have written about. In 2011, a group from Landesa conducted a study in 11 customary communities across Liberia and published a report on behalf of USAID. They referred to the family unit as the “core tenure unit”. This core tenure unit is defined as a unit within which rights to access land and natural resources are acquired and where the main locus of land and resource governance is housed. In thinking about division of customary land into residential area, we need to explore this family or core tenure unit concept further. It might help us with the questions of land grabs and future generations.

 

Jennifer touched on the question of protecting women and minority land rights within the customary system.  This comes down to the question of who is a community member. This is important because members of a community as defined in the draft LRB have power over land use and land distributions. They cannot be excluded from land use and land ownership. I therefore, paste verbatim the definition of a Community Member: Means a Liberian citizen irrespective of age, gender, belief or religious backgrounds who was (i) born in the Community or (ii) parent(s) was born within a Community; or (iii) who has lived continuously within the Community for at least seven years; or (iv) a spouse of a Community Member both of whom reside in the Community. Are we closer to protecting women and minority land rights with this definition?

 

Although we have not had many comments on the last two questions about protective land within customary area and customary land already granted into concessions (the draft bill when pass into law will not be retroactive), I like to touch on what is in the current draft bill concerning these issues.  Protective land can be designated on customary land but it management will be based on the Forest Reform Law of 2006 and any successor legislation for the benefit of all Liberians. Two things are important to mention on the issue of concessions within customary land. First, communities through their Community Land Development and Management Committees will represent communities in every scheduled concession reviews (usually after every five years). Second, upon the expiration of the concession agreement, that land will return to the customary communities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In his inauguration speech in January 2018, Liberian President George Manneh Weah stated, “We owe our citizens clarity on fundamental issues such as the land beneath their feet.” But several months after his inauguration, we have yet to see strong signals from the President’s office that the LRA will pass—and we know that land conflicts and insecurity are leaving communities poor and vulnerable.

While some version of the bill could be passed at any time, we must reflect on what the LRA could mean for the communities that live off the land in Liberia, and especially rural women and youth. Passing a version of the bill that specifically supports the rights of Indigenous Peoples, women, and youth is crucial for lasting peace and prosperity in Libera.

Supporting women’s land rights in particular is key: an analysis by the Rights and Resources Initiative of legal frameworks governing women’s land rights in 30 countries found that not one met its obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Liberia was one of the countries examined in this study, which found that women’s rights to voting, leadership, and dispute resolution were all inadequately protected in Liberia.

Women’s secure rights to community forests and other lands are essential to justice, forest restoration, and women's econmomic empowerment, including their agency and decision making at both the household community level. According to Article 18 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, women have the right to live in a healthy and sustainable environment, and states must ensure greater participation of women in the planning, management, and preservation of the environment and the sustainable use of natural resources at all levels.

While an inclusive LRA in Liberia that affirms the land rights of Indigenous Peoples, women, and youth to land would not resolve all of these issues, it would nonetheless be an important step forward, and one that could serve as a model for other countries in the region.

As expressed in the Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa, there is a consensus on the need for “comprehensive land policy development”. The Liberia Land Rights Bill is a significant step in the right direction in that it seeks to ensure the governance and management of land in Liberia on the basis of sound principles. Its passage would strengthen the management of customary land, which is key to ensuring the rights of rural communities. Land management is increasingly important as land scarcity grows due to competition from investors for large scale land concessions and urban encroachment continues. It is important to note that the Bill refers to environmental protection from the perspective of sustainable land management to ensure equitable benefits and access to land resources on the basis of participation of communities.

In relation to acreage, it could be proposed that the Bill refer to up to one acre as opposed to no more than one acre. This would allow for more flexibility and community participation and that of the CLDMA in decisions regarding land access. I agree with the need to for a maximum amount to protect residential land allocation and ensure equity. Granting one acre land plots may be unsustainable in the longer term.

It is extremely important to involve the community in land demarcation through community mapping and demarcation of their land on the basis of pro poor gender responsive approaches. Mapping must include the tenure relations of men and women to who has access to use, control and fee simple ownership. This will enable greater clarity in respect of the extent to which women’s land rights are being protected and measures to address shortcomings. Fit-For-Purpose (FFP) approaches to land governance need to be promoted that seek to strengthen greater accuracy over land boundaries over time. A FFP approach is flexible and practical and seeks to avoid rigid regulations, demands for spatial accuracy and systems that may be unsustainable expensive and time consuming.

It is important to demarcate customary land and ensure land tenure security on the basis of written evidence, as the Bill states, in order to prevent land sales that are unregulated and where no proof exists of what was sold to powerful land actors and interest groups. All land sales need to be addressed and approved by the community through the CLDMA to ensure sustainable land the protection of communities. This is critical in the case of Large Scale land Based Investments, land grabs and concessionary land.

In order to ensure the recognition of customary land rights for all, government agencies responsible for customary land governance and management must be appropriately funded.

 

 

 

 

 

Land right is an important asset in the fight against poverty and gender equaty. Too often, however, legal documents, including land titles and certificates, are only registered in the name of a male family member – fathers, husbands, brothers. To make the LRB equitable, women need direct benefits or rights to land for multiple reasons – food security, health, family welfare, protection from sexual violence and other forms of physical abuse, and land right can be used to combat abject poverty, and more. The LRB must make sure women have the right to gain property rights upon marriage, divorce, death of a spouse, or as an heir as provided for under DRL 3.4 and 8.7. Equal Rights of the Customary Marriage Law of 1998. The language in the bill should protect women's land right.

Garmai Gbelle is a frmale City Mayor for Zorzor District in Lofa County. she does not have an email address. through an in person interview, she said: "Protecting women and minority land rights in Customary Land Tenure, there is no doubt as to whether women should be given rights to customary land. There is no reason for anyone to think that we the women don’t have voice when it comes to land issue or anything else. We clearly understand that according to our traditional the man is the head of the home, but that don’t necessarily mean that the woman don’t have rights when it comes to decision making especially about land, even most of our traditional leaders today are getting aware now about women rights. Women think more about their children future, so I think they should be given full rights and equal access to land. We need to start with leadership on land management committees. So I recommend that the Land Rights Bill place in strong [concrete] gender sensitive provision to include women in all related land management committees and protect women access and right to land."

Joseph Bedell is the Commissioner for Zorzor District in Lofa County. He does not have an email address.

As for customary land, when we have rights to our customary land, we need to put some measure in place regarding the selling of customary land. Customary land should not be sold without consultation with the entire community. If we are not carefully, it could lead to problems. So I suggest a safeguard before a community can sell customary land but this should be done with the full participation of the community.

Joseph Bedell is the Commissioner for Zorzor District in Lofa County. He does not have an email address. I think it should be turn into deed if the owner rightfully got it. Because even our forefather who got the land we currently live on and claiming it didn’t have deed for these land they got it through the same. People have already started developing TCs and i am not sure we can change that. Now, i think the size has to be considered because some people are claiming huge amount o f and through TCs. So i think the government and CSOs can discuss how best to set up a way communities are push off the land.

Henry Zayzay is the Paramount Chief for Zorzor District in Lofa County.. he says: "As for the one acre, we don’t have enough land for everyone to have one acre. Even if we think about this, we will have people claiming to be a member of a community because they want share of the land and other people will not agree which will cause trouble. My suggestion is we go back to the community to decide how they want to manage their land not have any suggestions from outside."

Hon Daniel C. Keh is the Clan Chief Krosoken, Chedepo District in River Gee County. Through a phone interview he says: the one acre of Land per adult for community member to own as residential is welcoming idea because we need to protect the current community members. Otherwise, other community members from outside can come and start wning the land from us through deed. If we can deed that is a good idea but the land cannot be sold. no one can sell their land until the community has developed a system to protect itself.

Hon Daniel C. Keh is the Clan Chief Krosoken, Chedepo District in River Gee County. Tribal certificate can be turn into Dee but it need to be validated according to the standards established by Government during the time tribal certificate was introduced. Also, the TV has to be reviewed by the current community members so to protect the livelihood of the community.

Felecia Weah, the Youth Chair of Saykliken Clan, River Gee. Gender: in the Grebo cultural men have more rights to land than women, therefore the land governance component women don’t have any part to play. Normally we discuss land when men meet at the society ground and women are not part of.

Saylee Sewn is a community Elder from Jayto Clan, Potupo District. the issue of tribal certificate need to be look at carefully, because during war and after the war people give certificate out without the proper people signing the document, therefore it need to be validated by the community before turning into Dee.

Jonnie Norrine is the Clan Chief of Cherboken in potupo District:
I am OK with tribal certificates turning into deed but that should be done with the community's consent. That is, Tribal certificate can be turn into Dee if these conditions are met:
• Quarter chief sign
• Town chief sign
• General Town chief sign
• Clan chief sign
• Paramount chief sign
• Chief Elders sign and
• District commissioner will endorsed it to give the legitimacy of the tribal certificate before it can be turn into Dee.

Josiah Messer, the Clan Chief of Siahn, a County in South East of Liberia, River Cess County.

We have had Tribal Certificates for a long time and some people in the community have TCs. I think it will be hard not to deed TC so better they work with communities to legitimate the certificates but there should be a time line and cut off period. But I also think government needs to place a hold on TCs; people are still issuing TCs.

The Land Management Committee Chair for Tekpa Clan, Frederick Wizzard, River Cess County:

I am Ok with each community member receiving no more than one acre of residential land but I think it should be left with the community. In my town, people don’t need more than an acre for residential area but we may see that someday so it is not a bad idea. I also think the ownership should include selling but all this should be left with the community.

The government should take more time to study a provision like this because it could entitle people to land areas that may already be under Tribal Certificate or deeded land claim. So, this best way to go about tit is for now is to leave that provision out of the Bill while government and other actors study what conditions exist on the ground and come up with regulations on how to manage individual holdings in customary land rights. In the meantime, community can be supported to manage the land according to their traditions and customs.

Tribal Certificates are veru sensitive. There are families that got their TC since the 70s an dthey have passed on to their children and grand children, any attempt to elimiate that could create a lot of problems. So i suggest that we process TCs into deed by only if the community has reviewed and valdiated the calim. However, because some communities ahve grown into areas under TCs, I suggest that govnerment and CSOs work to set up a creteria to address conflicts related to formalizing TCs.  

This is a sensitive issue and because of how families are structured and the nature of our cultures so it will take time. Most of the challenge is what to do with the rights of children in a family. in my culture, the children belong to the man. The offspring of the woman (our sisters) will always be seen as less than that of the brothers children. I don't agree with this thinking but this is the culture. The best way to fight against this is through more awareness, training, and capacity development opportunities for women, and sensitization training for community leadership. so we need to invest in more training, awareness, and capacity development activities aligned with the implementing the LRP.

There are too many challenges i see with deeding residential areas to community members but i also know that some communities are already doing this so not to leave poorer and weaker community members out, i think the provision is OK. However, instead of deeding the land to individual, it should be deeded to a family unit and said can only be sold to a community currently residing in the community. Now, I also think we need to consult or empower communities to set the cap for residential land ownership. Any number or standard the government select would likely become the gold standard for other community members.

I think Tribal Certificates should be turned into deed but it has to done through the community. I would say, before a TC is formalized, that is developed or undeveloped, it should validated by the community leadership, including chiefs, elders, and other local leadership.

As a Liberian studying in Nigeria, i see this from two different sides. on the one hand, i think this approach presents an opportunity to protect current community members and also promote economic activities in communities. A community member can mortgage their land to undertake meaningful agriculture development.

But on the other hand, it could also mean the end of customary communities in Liberia. It could mean, one person - an outsider - can buy the whole community. So what happens to a rural community that is paying rent?

To address this, i propose setting up criteria as a condition to getting this done, for example, he land has to be collective owned by the family unit and it cannot be sold to an outsider. In that case, one acre is small. so a community can decide how to go about it.

I am Ok with the one area but I think this should be left with the community to decide. In my work as a facilitor working with rural communities, I have seen community members already applying a sense of ownership separate from the whole community, usually through quarters. So I think there should be a room to formalize such land management system but such a land cannot be sold otherwise it could be a way for communities to speculate on their residential land by selling the residential areas and end up leasing from one or two families.

The TC issue is tricky. The government needs to set up a standard to eliminate fraudulent certificates. So for example, we can agree that places that are developed can be deeded. Otherwise, I would say any tribal certificates before the Civil War – 1990 through the passage of the Bill – should be cancelled. TCs before the war (1970s and 60s) can be considered agreed) between the community and person claiming the TC. If so, such a certificate can be deeded to the person, developed or not.

TC before the war, the 1970s and 80s should be discussed with the community. That way, a community and TC holder can agree on a limit based on the TC and the current need of the community. All other certificates received between 1990 and 2018 should be cancelled! We had several years of war during which communities were displaced and people were being placed in position of power in the community without the community’s consent. Also, most of the TCs during this time tend to be large and dubious, and often claimed by national elites and government officials. This is already forcing some communities off the land. So, cancel the TC during and after the war and the TCs before the war can be discussed between the TC holder and the community.

It has been an immense honor to have participated in such a rich discussion on Liberia pending Land Right Bill. SDI sees the deliberation as extremely useful opportunities in soliciting inputs to enable us enrich our debate on the Land Rights Bill. The discussion had diverse participants, including community members, land experts, and field practitioners, at both national and international levels. SDI and the broader civil society network appreciate all the valuable, thoughtful inputs and opinions. We thank our partners and the technical team that facilitated the debate using this very creative method.

As we advocate for the passage of the pending Land Rights Bill and with an expressed commitment seen from the Liberian president towards establishing land rights for all Liberians, we must be positive and hopeful that a progressive Land Right Bill in favor of customary community will eventually be passed into law. However, the need for continuous and tireless work to influence the process is an understatement. We thank you for your contributions towards our effort in this process.

Land Acquisition is of a cardinal issue arising in every country. Therefore it should be dealt with critically. This process has the ability to create uneasiness and misunderstanding amongst citizens especially when they are ignorant to the Law.

Now that the Land Rights Act has been signed, it is now time that CSOs and other working groups must work robustly with the implementation process. 

In other for the Law to be effective, there must be implementation.

Share this page