Ahead of Plans to Designate Wonegizi Forest as Protected Area, Lofa Communities Formalize Customary Land Ownership

BALAKPLASU, Lofa—Ahead of efforts to designate the Wonegizi Forest in Lofa as a protected forest, several communities along the forest’s edge are participating in a customary land formalization process facilitated by the Community Rights Support Facility.

CRSF is a non-governmental organization hired by Flora Fauna International to lead the land formalization process, which begins the process of obtaining customary land deeds for the communities.

The exercise began in April 2023, and 18 towns participated from Zogolemai Township, Vassawulu Section, and Wanglodu Clan. The towns are Duogomai, Goyala, John’s Town, Kortee Town, Lofada, Lutisu, Belebaladamai, Zango Town, Balakpalasu, Barziwen, Barwen, Nekebusu, I-Mah, Luyeamai, Madena, Kabota, Tusu, and Bulor.

At a ceremony in Balakplasu on January 15, 2024, communities in the Zogolemai and Vassawulu sections signed a memorandum of understanding and certification provided by the Liberia Land Authority. Key stakeholders, including local authorities, attended the ceremony.

CRSF’s lead facilitator, Titus Zeogar, explained the complicated process for formalizing ownership of customary land: “There are stages in the land formalization process; it started with community self-identification, community self-declaration, which is called the CSI process, and after the CSI process, we had the governance process, where involved communities adopted bi-laws and signed, followed by the setting up of community land development management committees charged with the responsibility of representing the community and making decision on the use of their natural resources whenever investors come around on behalf of the community. Another stage was where the communities engaged in the boundary harmonization process.”

During the boundary harmonization process on May 6, leaders from towns sharing boundaries with the Zogolemai Township, Vassawulu Clan, and other towns under the Wanglodu Clan signed a memorandum of understanding.

Zeogar said the next step of the process is land use planning, where CRSF will work with the communities to designate land for agriculture, residential areas, burial, and playgrounds.

“If you don’t manage your land properly, you might likely finish all of what you have,” he said. “That is why the customary land formalization process will greatly impact the community and benefit inhabitants for a longer time.”

He said the Liberia Land Authority was also requested to conduct a confirmatory survey. Agreements reached by the communities will also be submitted to the authority for verification of the geographical coordinates. After the confirmatory survey, the authority will issue the customary land deeds.

Featured photo by Kelvin Kollie

Kelvin Kollie

Born in Voinjama, Lofa, Kelvin Kollie holds an A. A. degree in Public Administration and has studied Information Technology. With over seven years practicing journalism, he served as a senior newscaster and later as news director of the Voice of Lofa before resigning in February 2020 to work as a technician at a telecommunications company.

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