Monrovia – A civil society organization, the Foundation for Community Initiatives (FCI), has begun a project to assist rural communities in Liberia to legalize their customary ownership of their lands.
The Protection of Customary Collective Community Land Rights (P3CL) project, which began since January this year and will end in December next year, targets 24 communities in Bong, Grand Bassa, Lofa, River Cess, Nimba and Sinoe Counties.
The project is valued at US$1,999,704.16 with funding from an international civil society group, Tenure Facility and the Liberia Land Authority on its advisory board.
FCI is implementing the project with two other national civil society organizations: Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) and the Parley Liberia.
Speaking at the launch of the project on Thursday in Monrovia, Julie Weah, FCI’s Executive Director, said the project the result of lessons learned from a pilot project done by her organization.
Also speaking at the launch of the project, Atty. J. Adams Manobah, Acting Chairman of the Liberia Land Authority said the project was important to Liberia and its partners in the land sector as the project seeks to secure land ownership for rural communities.
The Land Rights Law was passed into law in 2018 and was hailed across the world for recognizing customary land rights and women’s ownership to land. However, experts say implementation challenges lie ahead.
Atty. Manobah made a plea for more international support to make the law work. “Liberia alone cannot do this work,” Atty. he told the launch. “No country has all the resources, mainly when you are a third world nation like ours. We heavily rely on the good will of the donor community, the implementing partners, the civil society along with the help of …the press,” he added.
Dr. Raymond Achu Samndong, the Monitoring and Evaluation, Learning and Reporting Manager of Tenure Facility, called for unity among stakeholders within the land sector. Dr. Samndong said the project has resulted to a strong collaboration between the government of Liberia and civil society he said other African countries could emulate.
He told attendees of the launch to create a human chain and chanting: “Land rights for Liberia together for the Community, the Government for the Prosperity of the Liberian People”.
The Land Rights Law mandates communities to go through a legal process in order to formalize ownership of their customary land, but lack of awareness of the law lack and capacity means communities cannot benefit from those lands they claim.
The project seeks to bridge that gap, according to Loretta A. Pope-Kai, Project facilitator. Making a PowerPoint presentation, Mrs. Pope-Kai said the 24 communities within the six counties the project targets were selected based certain criteria: they must share boundaries with at least one of the communities that participated in pilot project that brought about the project, have viable forest not under concession, clarifying their customary land claims and, among others, have applied for or been granted a Community Forestry Management Agreement (CFMA) under the Community Rights Law of 2009 with Respect to Forest Lands.
Mrs. Pope-Kai said FCI and the other two implementing partners would train 24 community animators, 12 individual practitioners and four other civil society organizations that would in turn support communities through the legal process for customary land rights.
She said the training would focus on high-level participatory land and resource mapping that would develop and delivered for project partners and selected community members, and that the project will develop and publish on how to support communities on customary land rights recognition.
All of these things, she said, would be done with the advice of the Liberia Land Authority.