GBARNGA, Bong â€“ An organization focused on land rights issues, Parley Liberia, has collaborated with the Liberia Land Authority in a conference on Customary Land Formalization which involved local leaders from three counties â€“ Bong, Lofa, and Nimba.
The conference was held in Gbarnga from Feb. 20â€“21 and brought gathered more than 75 local leaders and government officials from the Liberia Land Authority and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, including clan and paramount chiefs, district commissioners, and superintendents of the counties.
Under its Protection of Customary Collective Land Rights Project, Parley Liberia is working with communities in 14 clans across the three counties. Their project involves assisting these communities to self-identify, establish appropriate community governance structures, and harmonize boundaries that will eventually lead the communities to acquire deeds for their lands, as required under Liberiaâ€™s Land Rights Act that was passed in 2018.
Speaking at the two-day conference, Parley Liberiaâ€™s program coordinator, Nyan Flomo, said that despite the challenges the communities face across the three counties in the customary land formalization process, tremendous progress continues to be made.
â€œOne of the things we are looking at is for the statutory and customary authorities to have a consistent understanding of the Land Rights Act,â€ Flomo told The Bush Chicken. â€œWe also want that at the end of the day, they can also commit to the process. Because if we are to succeed in their respective communities, they must be working with us.â€
Parley Liberia operates in four clans in Bong, four in Lofa, and six in Nimba.
Local leaders and other participants at the conference are hopeful that full knowledge and implementation of the provisions of the Land Rights Act in their counties will help reduce the number of longstanding land crises, as well as prevent new ones.
Also speaking to The Bush Chicken following the conference was Mary Larteh, the paramount chief of Jorquelleh Chiefdom in Bong, who sounded grateful and enthusiastic about the prospects ahead.
â€œWe want to say thank you to Parley Liberia, the Land Authority, and all their partners for this process. It is important that we understand the law and acquire deeds for our land. Because if we do not do so, our children will not live happily with one another,â€ Larteh said.
She also called upon her fellow traditional chiefs and county leaders to support the work of partners like Parley Liberia, and the Land Authority in order to ensure effective land ownership concerning customary land formalization across the country.
The chair of the Liberia Land Authority, J. Adams Manobah, called for sincere and collaborative efforts from traditional leaders in the customary land formalization processes across the country.
Manobah noted that the local and traditional leaders have key roles to play in helping the Liberia Land Authority and its partners achieve implementation of the Land Rights Law. He, therefore, challenged them to be sincere in helping to identify accurate demarcations of boundaries between and amongst communities in the land formalization process.
â€œIf you can speak the truth in land issues, you can resolve land issues. The new law gives you right to your land,â€ Manobah said.
The director of Culture and Custom Affairs at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, William Jallah, was also present, and expressed his appreciation for the work of Parley Liberia and other partners who continue to help enhance the work of the Land Authority.
Jallah expressed the governmentâ€™s commitment to ensuring the full implementation of the Land Rights Law, adding that the support and training provided by Parley Liberia and other partners in the land sector are indeed laudable.
Jallah wants Liberians to see the Land Rights Act as an opportunity to claim their lands and end land-related crises that threaten the peace and harmony of the country. He added, â€œThe opportunity communities now have to acquire deeds for their lands is very, very important. Settle disagreements and harmonize your land for your children.â€
Funded by Tenure Facility, the estimated US$2 million project is being implemented in seven counties â€“ Bong, Lofa, Nimba, Grand Bassa, River Cess, River Gee, and Sinoe.
The implementing organizations include Parley Liberia, Sustainable Development Institute, and the Foundation for Community Initiatives.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Parley is a New York-based environmental group. Parley is based in Liberia and focuses on land rights issues.
Featured photo by Moses Bailey