‘Prioritize Land Rights Act’

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The chairperson of the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC), Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott, has reminded members of the National Legislature on the speedy passage of the Land Rights Act that is currently before the House’s Committee on Land.

The Land Rights Act was part of the proposed recommendations gathered by the CRC as part of the amendments to the 1986 Constitution. Cllr. Scott believes that if the Act is passed, it would help to foster peace and reconciliation.

“People will not make big farms if they fear the next government will claim their land for concession purposes,” she noted last Thursday, October 1, at the opening of a two-day workshop on the National Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGT) of Land, Fisheries and Forestry organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Government of Liberia (GOL).

The program, which is the second of its kind, was held under the theme, “Communicating Tenure Rights, Improving Tenure Governance,” with the intention to benefit citizens. It was held at the Monrovia City Hall.

Cllr. Scott said land tenure rights are an important instrument that can immensely enhance food security and stressed the need for more awareness to ensure that land tenure right legislation is constitutionally enacted.

“We should not leave it to the notions of a succeeding lawmaker. Ownership and access to land is more important to ensure food security,” she stated.

She said food security depends largely on access to land tenure right, adding “without access to land you cannot grow food.”

She said a swift approach is eagerly needed to ensure that disagreements surrounding land ownership will be remedied.

For his part Joseph Boiwu, Food and Agriculture Organization Assistant Representative asserted that billions of people across the world depend on land access.

He therefore encouraged citizens to take advantage of the land rights tenure that will protect them against any form of land dispute. He indicated that with massive awareness, the act will be passed.

Mr. Boiwu stated that FAO looks forward to the passage of the relevant laws on the Land Rights Act for smooth implementation.

Dr. Cecil O. Brandy, chairman of the Land Commission, explained in his opening remarks at the workshop that the aim of the Voluntary Guidelines is to serve as a reference to provide guidance to improve the governance of land, fisheries and forestry with the goal of achieving food security and to support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security.

Dr. Brandy encouraged Liberians, including Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to advocate and galvanize efforts to ensure that citizens are protected.

Also making remarks, Ali Kaba, the Program Director of Sustainable Development Institute, said that 35-50 percent of lands are not protected.

Mr. Kaba indicated that since 1947 the Liberian government believes that if an individual’s land is not registered it means the person doesn’t own the land and its public property.

“In order for Liberians to have land security, we must work hard – especially Civil Society Organizations – by creating more awareness in the country to have the Land Rights Act passed to secure ours lands,” Mr. Kaba urged.

He stressed that without land security in the country, there would be no food security, indicating that if you don’t have a land security that means you have nothing.

Participants from the government and the private sectors acknowledged ongoing efforts in land, forestry and fisheries sectors in Liberia to improve tenure governance as expressed by the VGGT.

The participants recommended the use of messages identified by the Voluntary Guidelines multi-stakeholder platform in the areas of land, fisheries and forestry to develop future campaigns to inform and educate the public and enable all citizens to fully enjoy their rights and understand their responsibilities. They also said that greater effort must be made to increase public awareness on governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forestry by making available to the wider public all information on relevant legal, institutional and policy frameworks.

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