Liberia: Civil Society Groups Launch Customary Land Formalization Guide

Paynesville — Three civil society organizations, with support from the International Land and Forest Tenure Facility, and the government of Norway have launched a simplified customary land formalization guide to educate communities on the processes involved in owning their customary land.

Since the passage of the Land Rights Act (LRA), lack of awareness on the law has been a major impediment to communities' quest to legally own their customary land.

But the CSOs, which include the Foundation for Community Initiative (FCI), Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) and Parley-Liberia say the manual would help breach the knowledge gap.

The manual is tilted "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.

The guide launched It was launched at a press conference by FCI's Executive Director Loretta Pope-Kai on Tuesday, provides step by step instruction on how to implement the community self-identification process, the first of a series of steps require in getting a customary deed.

"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 Laws," Madam Pope-Kai said.

The idea to develop the manual was conceived out of the experiences of the three CSOs who have been working with 24 communities in eight of the 15 counties, she disclosed.

Communities' quest to formally own and manage their land, as provided for by the Land Rights Act of 2018, cannot be realized unless they go through a series of requirements or procedures.

But the developers are optimistic that the 38-page guide, which they say is a simpler supplement of 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," Madam Pope-Kai, who also the chairperson of the CSOs Council of Liberia added.

The three CSOs are working with 24 communities, with a total of 500,000 hectares, in eight counties that are seeking customary deeds.

Nora Bowier of SDI called for a robust awareness on the law so that the communities can be adequately informed.

There is a limited number of people who are knowledgeable of the law and there is a need for more people to be trained, according to her.

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

She disclosed that the copies of the guide will be shared with other CSOs including the CSOs Council of Liberia, CSOs 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, adding that the guide is a way of simplifying and improving the formalization process.

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