21 December 2020, Banjul - Land disputes have become a growing problem in The Gambia and have in many instances led to violent conflicts and even loss of lives. There is growing concern that the prevailing redress mechanisms may be inadequate to resolve land and natural resource related conflicts efficiently.
To help address this issue, FAO in partnership with Action Aid the Gambia (AATG) on Monday 21 December organised a workshop to validate a report on “Empirical Assessment of Grievance Resolution Mechanisms for Land and Natural Resources (LNR) related disputes in The Gambia”. Due to COVID-19 social distancing requirements 25 participants attended in person, while other stakeholders joined the workshop online to validate the assessment report, that is based on research conducted in three local government administrative Regions, namely Brikama, Janjanbureh and Kuntaur.
The study focuses on issues such as ownership, access, administration, and dispute resolution mechanisms amongst people and communities, and the mechanisms used to address them both formally and informally. The initiative aims at examining complaint processes for LNR related disputes in order to formulate and implement proactive conflict prevention methods.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Ousman Cham, Chairperson AATG Board of Directors said that population growth places huge pressure on land demands for competing needs such as farming, livestock grazing, housing, industry, and roads. He furthered that the increase in natural resource exploitation has led to a rise in land related conflict. “As land dispute cases rise, so also is the need to come up with solutions that are culturally and socially acceptable which are peaceful and sustainable”, he said.
In his remarks, Mustapha Ceesay, Assistant FAO Representative in charge of Programmes said that The Gambia is an agricultural country, with much of its territory devoted to crop production, livestock farming, fisheries, and natural resource exploitation. He posited that it was therefore natural to experience conflicts over land and natural resources. Ceesay said that the United Nations Secretary-General’s Peacebuilding Fund is an instrument for conflicts resolution which calls for greater national leadership, and a shift from response to prevention. “FAO, being the UN agency mandated with agriculture, livestock, fisheries and natural resources management has been commissioned by the UN Secretary-General’s Peacebuilding Fund, to lead efforts in conflict resolution over land and natural resources”, the FAO representative added.
Presentations were made on the findings and participants commended the consultants that authored the report for an impressive work. They also made observations and recommendations for the consultants to consider. Participants also expressed hope that the initiative will lead to finding lasting solutions to land conflicts in The Gambia. Illassa Sanneh Alkalo of Darsilami Sandu said the initiative was very good and recommendations made will help them a lot in addressing land disputes.