Developing and testing a national guideline for community self-identification
Protection of customary collective community land rights in Liberia
Developing and testing a national guideline for community self-identification
Protection of customary collective community land rights in Liberia

The Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) led a multi-stakeholder initiative to develop and test a national guideline for community self-identification in partnership with Liberia’s Land Commission, the Foundation for Community Initiatives (FCI), Development Education Network (DEN-L) and Parley Liberia. Liberia is still recovering from two civil wars. A crucial element of the Accra Peace Agreement, signed by the warring parties in 2003, was ensuring a more just and equitable process of land reform. The guideline supports the land reform envisioned by Liberia’s new Land Rights Policy and Land Rights Act by clarifying the first step in a process to gain collective title to their customary land. This project also built capacity for implementing the protocol and prepared for national adoption and upscaling.

Communities identify themselves as

a first step toward gaining collective land title

Communities map

their territories and land uses

Communities come to

agreement with their neighbouring communities

Community members

sign a memorandum of understanding

NGOs and the national land agency tested and refined over 21 months a practical and scalable guideline to enable local communities self-identify–the first step toward gaining collective title to their customary land under Liberia’s Land Rights Policy and Land Rights Act

“While there have been some issues…the trust, mutual understanding, and communication channels developed through the pilot project represent major assets for further developing the relationship with CSOs, and jointly move forward in the recognition of community customary lands.” — Othello Brandy, Chair of the Liberian Land Authority

Goal

To ensure that collective community land and natural resource tenure rights of local communities in Liberia are recognized, secured and formalized

Objectives

  • Develop and test a community self-identification guideline in diverse community and forest situations
  • Increase awareness of the self-identification guideline and the capacity of stakeholders to use it
  • Build support for national approval and adoption of the community self-identification guideline

Actions

  • Develop consensus on self-identification guideline
  • Train pilot communities, Land Authority staff and civil society organizations on how to use the self-identification protocol
  • Test the self-identification guideline in 12 communities in diverse settings
  • Gather and reported lessons from the application of the community self-identification process
  • Achieve a multi-stakeholder consensus on the final self-identification protocol

Results

  • Developed and tested a draft guideline in 11 communities in diverse settings, involving 45,000 people and 150,000 hectares
  • Trained representatives of civil society organizations and government organizations to implement the guideline
  • Initiated national discussions on the guideline and its application, in preparation for national adoption and upscaling
  • Strengthened relationships between government and civil society organizations and pioneered a successful model for a partnership between communities, civil society organizations and government
  • Increased the capacity and influence of local civil society organizations
  • Through the projects Advisory Group, raised awareness about the guideline and the process for achieving collective title to customary lands with civil society organizations, government ministries, international organizations and private sector companies
  • Contributed to Liberia’s Framework for Implementing Collective Tenure Rights Recognition Nation-wide
  • Increased awareness of customary land tenure among local communities and other stakeholders
“This initiative is very good for our community. We as local authorities and traditional people are happy about it. I think it changes our story, ‘from caretaker of customary land to real owners’ and it shows us how to do it [tenure security].’ So, I as the Paramount Chief, me and elders give you and the project our full support.” — Paramount Chief of Kpelle Chiefdom, Salayea District, Lofa County

Impact

  • Built government and civil society capacity for implementing the protocol in preparation for national adoption and upscaling under the new Land Rights Act
  • Strengthened the civil society-government partnership, which is crucial to advancing the land and forest tenure rights of local communities in Liberia
“The land discussion is good. Things are changing. Women are now sitting with men to talk about land issues in our community.” — Leader of Twenty Sisters in Rock Town Community, a women’s group Rock Town Community, Maryland

Completed


From 01 December 2015
To 01 October 2017

Budget
US$750,000

Proponent

Sustainable Development Institute

Partners

Foundation for Community Initiatives (FCI)

Liberian Land Authority

Development Education Network (DEN-L)

Parley Liberia

Beneficiaries

Communities in pilot sites, including women, youth and other marginalized groups

Local and national civil society organizations

Government ministries

Development partners

Private sector

Liberian society

Stories

Liberian communities test

new national guideline for self-identification

Lessons learned

  • Communities will have to manage the self-identification process themselves, and will need local support. A broad base of community-level organizations will be needed to upscale at an affordable cost.
  • Involving statutory, local government officials, and customary leaders is essential to success in the process.
  • As the process rolls out, it may be advisable to link self-identification to boundary harmonization and demarcation.
  • A relationship built on trust, mutual respect and accountability between civil society organizations and government is a prerequisite for an operational partnership to be feasible, durable and fruitful. Full transparency and honesty is needed on each side. A code of conduct can be useful.
  • Having a highly diverse coalition of civil society organizations involved in implementing the protocol benefited the project by bringing to it new knowledge and additional strengths. Prior experience with communities appeared to be more important than prior knowledge of land rights issues.

With the signing of the Land Rights Act (LRA) in 2018, Liberia established 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.

This initiative builds on the achievements of the Tenure Facility pilot to scale-up rights recognition under the LRA across Liberia. It is led by the Foundation for Community Initiatives (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. 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.

The partners aim to advance tenure security over 788,190 hectares for 24 communities, benefiting 100,000 people. They 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.

Advancing tenure security over 788,190 hectares for 24 communities, benefiting 100,000 people— and building capacity to scale up collective customary land and resource rights under the Land Rights Act across Liberia

“The LRA is the cornerstone for ensuring more just and equitable land ownership in Liberia. Ensuring that our communities' land 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. ” — Julie T. B. Weah, Foundation for Community Initiatives (FCI)

Goal

To recognize, formalize, and strengthen customary collective community land and natural resource tenure rights

Objectives

  • Support communities as they implement the process for recognizing collective customary land rights under the LRA
  • Develop and test with communities a common methodology and tools for participatory land and resource mapping
  • Strengthen the capacity of the implementing partners, other civil society organizations, community animators, and practitioners to support communities as they secure their rights under the LRA
  • Share lessons learned with civil society, donors, and stakeholders at local and national levels

Actions

  • Implement the LRA process for recognizing customary collective community land rights in 24 communities
  • Support communities as they establish land governance bodies and develop by-laws and/or constitutions to govern and manage their collective customary land
  • Develop, test and implement a methodology for participatory mapping of community land and resource
  • Support communities as they harmonize their community land boundaries with their neighbours’ lands
  • Train  civil society organizations, community animators, and practitioners on how to support communities as they secure their rights under the LRA
  • Hold events and other activities where civil society organizations, practitioners, communities, donors and government agencies can share their learning and experiences

Expected results

  • Advanced tenure security over 788,190 hectares of collective customary land through the LLA process for 24 communities, benefiting 100,000 people
  • Recognized land rights of women, youth, and other excluded or marginalized groups in community by-laws and/or constitutions
  • Established representation of women, youth and other excluded or marginalized groups on community land governance bodies
  • Captured and shared lessons learned, challenges and opportunities assisted with implementing collective customary rights under the LRA
  • Mobilized scaling up customary collective land recognition across Liberia

Expected impact

  • Built government and civil society capacity for implementing collective community land and resource rights under the LRA
  • Strengthened the civil society-government partnership for implementing the LRA
  • Developed a cadre of trained practitioners for implementing land rights under the the LRA
  • Equipped communities with land and resource maps they can use for governance, land use planning, and natural resource management
  • Reduced land conflict
  • Established conditions for communities to lead their own sustainable development, protect the environment and contribute to reducing deforestation and mitigating climate change

Ongoing


From 01 January 2019
To 01 January 2019

Budget
US$1,999,704

Proponent

Foundation for Community Initiatives (FCI)

Partners

Parley Liberia

Sustainable Development Institute (SDI)

Liberia Land Authority

Beneficiaries

Communities

Women, youth, immigrants and other socially excluded or marginalized groups

Local and national civil society organizations

Government ministries

Development partners

Private sector

Liberian society