Liberians scale up community land rights to enhance peace and security, equitable development, and women’s rights—and protect their country’s threatened forests

Building on the successful Tenure Facility pilot initiative, four Liberian organizations are scaling up collective customary land rights under the Land Rights Act. Signed into law by the President in 2018, the LRA establishes the legal framework for securing the customary collective community land and resource rights of two million Liberians. Anticipating passage of the LRA, the Tenure Facility pilot project in Liberia, completed in 2017, prepared for nationwide land reform by developing and testing a practical guide to support local communities in the process of self-identification, the first step in claiming their land rights.

‘The LRA is the cornerstone for ensuring more just and equitable land ownership in Liberia,’ says Julie Weah of the Foundation for Community Initiatives (FCI). ‘Ensuring that our communities’ lands are recognized and protected is essential to sustaining peace in Liberia after two civil wars, sustainable development in our rural areas, and protection of Liberia’s threatened forests. The LRA also provides opportunities for us to overcome traditional barriers to women’s participation in decision-making over land and resources by ensuring their voices are heard.’

FCI, a Liberian non-governmental organization that advocates for the rights of women, youth and other groups that are face social exclusion or marginalization in the natural resource sector, is leading the two-year initiative. Other partners include Parley Liberia, the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), and the Liberia Land Authority (LLA). Parley Liberia provides intermediary and advisory services to communities, companies and government regulators who are collaborating to develop land and natural resources in Liberia. SDI works to transform decision-making about natural resources in Liberia, so that benefits are shared equally. The Liberia Land Authority controls access to public land and promulgates regulations necessary for effective land governance.

With a Tenure Facility investment of almost 2 million US dollars, the initiative aims to advance tenure security over 788,190 hectares for 24 communities, benefiting 100,000 people in seven counties. See map below.

The partners are developing a common methodology for participatory mapping, developing guidelines to help communities navigate the LRA process, and training a cadre of organizations and individuals to support communities across Liberia as they secure their rights. In addition to mapping, demarcating, documenting and registering their claims with the Liberia Land Authority, the 24 communities are developing by-laws and/or constitutions for governing and managing their lands. They are also learning to resolve conflicts and to include women, youth, and other groups in decision-making and on land governance bodies. The initiative is aligned to support other Liberian national and donor-funded programs, such as the USAID-funded Land Governance Support Activity and the World Bank-funded Liberia Land Administration Project.

To learn more about the context for this project, visit the Liberia timeline.