From the 1st – 3rd of March, 2022, stakeholders in the land and agriculture sectors from across Liberia convened in the City of Buchanan, Grand Bassa County to review progress made thus far in the implementation of Liberia’s Land Rights Act on the occasion marking the first National Land Conference in Liberia since the beginning of its land reform process. The National Land Conference, which brought together 344 delegates (121 females and 223 males) including international guests from other sister Africa countries, Europe and the United States; was held under the theme: Celebrating three (3) years of Liberia’s Land Rights Act. The National Land Conference ended with a clear call to action “The Gbehzon Declaration” which among other issues, calls for:
- The finalization and adoption of the Land Rights Law Regulations of 2022 to address the gaps in the regulatory framework;
- Establishing a Dedicated Fund to support the conduct of Confirmatory Surveys in communities that have formalize their Customary Land;
- Strengthening the technical capacity of the Liberia Land Authority and other government institutions to fully implement the Land Rights Law and improve overall governance of the land sector;
- Strengthening the organizational capacity of Community Land Development and Management Committees (CLDMCs) to enable them to effectively implement their mandate;
- Strengthening human and technical capacity within government, civil society, private sector and communities to be able to develop and implement Participatory Land Use Plans at the national, county and community levels.
It can be recalled that, Liberia embraced the signing into law a new Land Rights Act in October, 2018. Following enactment of the new law, the Liberia Land Authority (LLA), working together with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), other government authorities, policy makers and international partners has initiated some good steps towards implementation of the law. Among the early achievements are the development of an Implementation Strategy and standardized messages for disseminating the Act, drafting regulations and guidelines, undertaking of pilots of community land formalization schemes and capacity building training programs for some actors in the land sector – mainly from the government and CSOs, as well as developing systems and processes for land administration and management.
While there are some progress made thus far towards implementation of the law through collective efforts, it is also important to note that implementation of the LRA has been plagued by a range of challenges. These challenges are linked to the practical, legal, institutional and procedural aspects of the actual implementation of the LRA on one hand, and also based on deeply rooted traditional and customary practices on the other hand. Within the context of widespread food and land tenure insecurity in the existence of our history, the enactment of the LRA and the initial progress are only the first steps of a long and complex process at hand. Based upon that, the MAP Liberia Land Platform, a land sector coordinating platform in Liberia, co convened by the government and CSOs, had organized this major Land Conference, to take stock of the successes achieved so far in the implementation of the law, analyze and highlight challenges, identify opportunities and generate recommendations and commitments for way forward. Planning and execution of the conference were done by its National Organizing Committee (NOC) and Technical Organizing Committee (TOC). The NOC comprised the Liberia Land Authority (LLA), the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), the College of Agriculture and Forestry of the University of Liberia and the MAP Liberia Platform secretariat.
The NOC provided overall policy direction to the National Land Conference and worked jointly with the various structures of the conference. While the TOC which comprised the 8 thematic groups supported by a Logistic Committee, Media Committee and Organizing Secretariat which guided the content aspect of the conference.
On the first day of the conference, there were official kick off formalities conducted including welcome remarks and overview of the historic land conference, greetings and solidarity messages from key agencies and personalities, and delivering of the Keynote address by Hon. Vincent Willie of Grand Bassa County, Chairman on the House Committee on Land, Mines, Energy, Natural Resources and Environment. Before the keynote address, greetings and solidarity messages were delivered by the following personalities/institutions:
- Excellency Neil Scott, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Liberia
- Ms. Mehnaz Ajmal Paracha, FAO Country Representative, a.i.
- Madame Vera Kellen, Program Manager, Delegation of the European Union to Liberia
- Excellency Michael A. McCarthy, Ambassador of the United States of America to Liberia
- Excellency Urban Siosirom, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Sweden to Liberia
- Excellency Ralph Timmermann, Ambassador of the Republic of Germany to Liberia
- Mr. Kofi Ireland, United Nations Women in Liberia
- Mr. Khwima Nthara, World Bank Country Manager to Liberia
- Mr. Nathaniel B. Walker, Acting Resident Representative of ECOWAS Commission in Liberia (through a proxy: Madam Irene Wallace)
- Mr. Raymond Samndong, Monitoring, Evaluation, Learning and Reporting Officer, The Tenure Facility
There were also some breakout sessions and High Level Plenary Discussions on Customary Land Formalization and Land Sector Coordination followed by questions, answers and discussions.