The Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and the Liberia Land Authority (LLA) have penned a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to collaborate and define the scope of land formalization for customary lands adjoining protected areas (PAs) and proposed protected areas (PPAs) across the country.
Prior to the enactment of the Land Rights Act (LRA) in 2018, the issue of land tenure across these forest landscapes was unclarified, as ownership of forests was only granted to communities by the government through the Community Rights Law (CRL) with Respect to Forest Land in 2009.
The Land Rights Act recognizes proposed protected areas and protected areas that existed before its enactment and are generally considered government land.
However, the existence of PPAs adjoining communities whose land areas have not been defined or formalised and communities within and or surrounding the PPAs presented challenges in terms of methods and approaches for land formalization within these landscapes.
This MOU, after months of discussions between the two entities, clarifies the basis on how the formalization of land will be carried out around PAs and PPAs, defines the scope of collaboration between LLA and FDA, and establishes a mechanism for facilitating and funding land formalization within these forest landscapes.
Given the established mechanism, customary community land ownership within and surrounding or adjoining PAs and PPAs will be formalized.
The MoU captures the goal of “Power to the People” as envisaged in the government’s development framework, the Pro-Poor Agenda.
During the signing ceremony at a resort in Sinkor, FDA Managing Director, C. Mike Doryen, expressed excitement about the increased collaboration between the FDA and LLA.
He extolled the Chairman of the LLA for putting the interests of the community first and agreeing to collaborate towards the protection of Liberia’s forest resources and rich biodiversity, which are already under severe threat.
Also, the Chairman of the LLA, Atty. J. Adams Manobah, Sr., said he was delighted in being able to work collaboratively with the FDA to protect Liberia’s natural resources while, at the same time, ensuring that adjoining communities are not negatively impacted.
“This is a win-win situation for everyone, and we must demonstrate that conservation does not mean negative impacts on the host community,” he concluded.
The Government through the FDA has previously set aside tracts of forest to sustainably manage forest resources and conserve biodiversity.
These tracts of forest land, when enacted by law or a decree, as in the past, are considered protected areas, thereby prohibiting certain counter-positive conservation activities relating to hunting, farming, logging, mining, etc.
Also, in the past, to demonstrate its willingness to protect a tract of forest subsequently, the government designated a few areas of forest landscapes as national forests, which later were transformed into Proposed Protected Areas (PPA).
The formalization of community land ownership is one of the target benefits for the government and the customary communities.
Boundary disputes or conflicts will be drastically minimized, if not eliminated, thereby ensuring sustainable peace, security, social cohesion, economic empowerment, and the realization of power to the people under the government’s Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD).