Banner Image: Representatives of FCI, SDI and Parley-Liberia posed with copies of the manual. The DayLight/ William Q. Harmon

By William Q. Harmon

PAYNESVILLE – Many communities across the country are seeking customary ownership to their land but many others are unaware of the Land Rights Act of 2018 that guarantees such right.   

Now, there is a new manual to help breach that knowledge gap. Officially launched on Tuesday in Paynesville, the manual is an initiative of the Foundation for Community Initiative (FCI), Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) and Parley-Liberia. It was financed by the International Land and Forest Tenure Facility and government of Norway.  

“A Guide to Customary Land Formalization: Making the Law Work for the people” is an easy-to-read explainer that developers say will help the communities get a better understanding of the customary land formalization process.

“This initiative is a step forward towards expanding the pool of actors that have the capacities to support customary communities to complete the requirements of the land rights law,” said Loretta Pope-Kai, the Executive Director of Foundation for Community Initiatives, who launched the 38-page document in Paynesville on Tuesday.

The idea of the guide was conceived out of the experiences of the three CSOs who have been working with communities, she added.  

The Land Rights Act is hailed across the world for its recognition of customary communities’ ownership of their ancestral lands. It requires communities to identify themselves, harmonize the boundaries with their neighbors, form a governance structure and then have the government survey their land.

The manual provides step-by-step instruction on how to implement the community self-identification process, the first of a series of steps required in acquiring customary deeds. It delves into things like community entry, gender equity and how to build local land-related consensus.

It complements the initial national guide developed by the Liberia Land Authority and stakeholders in 2016, is the first detailed manual by Liberian CSOs on how to support communities that are interested in acquiring deeds for their land.

“We are hoping that other CSOs and other stakeholders will take up time to educate themselves about the customary land formalization process,” Pope-Kai said.

FCI, Parley-Liberia and SDI are working in 24 communities, with a total of 500,000 hectares, in eight counties: Nimba, Lofa, Bassa, River Cess, Bong, Margibi and Maryland and River Gee.

Nora Bowier, who heads SDI’s community land protection program, said there is a need for robust awareness on the law so that the communities can be adequately informed.

“We are looking forward to more organizations making efforts to reach the communities with these simplified explainers,” she said at the event.

She disclosed that the copies of the guide will be shared with other groups, including the Civil Society Council of Liberia, CSO Working Group on Land Rights, Women Land Rights Taskforce and the LLA. “We are also going to present a copy to the office of President George M. Weah,” she noted.

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