Liberia: Six Clans in Foya Complete First Step to Customary Land Rights

Monrovia — Six clans in Foya, Lofa County have officially informed the Liberia Land Authority (LLA) that they have identified themselves as separate land communities, completing the first step to acquire legal ownership of land for customary communities in Liberia.

The six clans include Upper and Lower Tengia, Upper and Lower Rankollie, and Upper and Lower Wuam. They made their community self-identification declaration at the the LLA headquarters in Mamba Point in Monrovia.

Under the Land Rights Act, any community seeking customary land rights must identify itself to the LLA. The community will have its land mapped by the LAA, create its own bylaws and constitution, and set up a community land development and management council (CLDMC) before the LLA finalizes the process by conducting a confirmatory survey and presenting the community with a deed.

"You have taken a bold step," said Kula Jackson, LLA commissioner, on Monday, applauding the six clans at a program marking the presentation of their declaration. "You have won the race. You are a giant already."

Jackson said the clans' self identification declaration was evidence that the LLA had already begun implementing the new land law. The law came into play last year and was hailed internationally for recognizing customary land rights and women's ownership of land.

Social Entrepreneurs for Sustainable Development (SESDEV), a civil society organization, worked with the communities to help them understand the law and go through the legal steps towards a customary land deed.

"Land is an important factor to community livelihood and survivability," Daniel Krakue told FrontPage Africa after the program. "Securing customary land right will prevent conflict and provide economic sustainability for rural people."

The six communities already have a good idea how to use their land, thanks to the Foya land use plan, the first and so far the only land use plan since the creation of the law. The land use plan shows exactly what crops, farming methods and other land activities are suitable for every clan in the Foya district.

SESDEV was contracted by the Sustainable Trade Initiatives (IDH) of the Netherlands, which drafted the Foya land use plan, to assist the clans go through the legal process to acquire their land deeds to be able to utilize the land use plan. The project started March this year.

SESDEV worked with more than 150 towns in the six clans, according to Krakue.

"We had to do community profiling, learn their history and culture to help us know the people to be able to carry on awareness of the law in those communities," Krakue said.

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