Liberia: Traditional Chiefs Want More Land Awareness Trainings

Paramount Chief Moinamah Jah: "In Liberia, land is a symbol of identity, heritage and hope, because if you live in abject poverty but you have land; you are considered rich..."

Participants and traditional chiefs, who attended the just-ended three-day 'intensive' workshop creating awareness on "public land and its inventory" in Gbarnga Bong County have appealed to the Liberia Land Authority (LLA) and its partners including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Peace-building Support Office (PBSO), as well as other organizations that are in the business of mitigating land disputes for support to more training workshops.

Senjeh District Paramount Chief (PC) in Bomi County Moinamah Jah, who spoke on behalf of the traditional chiefs, said financial support to such training will help to diminish land-related disputes that have overwhelmed the country.

"In Liberia, land is a symbol of identity, heritage and hope, because if you live in abject poverty but you have land; you are considered a rich person since land is an asset," PC Jah told the participants and facilitators.

"Before then," he said "land in Liberia was plentiful so one could not hear too much land palava (confusion), but nowadays, the fight for land is despairing, because many people have nothing else to depend on but their ancestors land," Chief Jah said.

The Paramount Chief said the establishment of the LLA demonstrates that the government is desirous of addressing some of the land-related issues, but argues that it will not be sufficient to deal with the many land-related problems.

PC Jah added, "When these kinds of workshops are held, it would help to open the minds of people; and will also reduce some of the land disputes."

"We the traditional leaders have long been mediating by creating a balance in the process of tribal land disputes, and in some cases, our efforts have resulted to restoration of peace and reconciliation; but today, many Liberians, particularly the young people, do not respect the traditional way of solving problem-they always say that is "old system," PC Jah said to a deafening of applause in approval of his statement.

The paramount Chief said it will take a considerable time for the rural inhabitants to understand the different categories of land; namely, private, customary, public and government lands, noting, "During our generations, we have three categories of land: government, private, and customary lands, therefore, we need more of such workshops for the people to sufficiently understand these different categories of lands.

The participants named land ownership and distribution, land demarcation, gender disparity as some of the problems responsible for land disputes in the country.

Commissioner Ellen O. Pratt addresses the closing ceremony

LLA Commissioner Ellen O. Pratt, with oversight of Land Use and Management, lauded the participants, and the traditional chiefs for their recommendations, and promised to work on them along with other relevant agencies for possible implementation.

According to Commissioner Pratt, vast majority of Liberia's population is involved in subsistence agriculture. Farmers, many of them women, operate in an informal and precarious system without any legal titles to the lands. In the aftermath of the country's 14-year civil war, the government began the long overdue process to modernize its land tenure system, putting policies in place so that each parcel of land would be productive, and economically valuable."

She then challenged the participants to help educate their respective communities on the knowledge they gained from the training so they too can help mitigate some of the land-related crisis.

Commissioner Pratt also admitted that violent land disputes are reported to be more frequent in urban than rural areas, but assure participants that with the establishment of the LLA, land disputes will be considerably reduced.

Some topics that were discussed, included gender equality and land rights; understanding the institutional and organizational arrangements of the LLA, county land offices; Land Boards, the importance of Public Land, and how communities can assist in managing and or safeguarding the category of land for future use, etc.

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