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Green Scenery engages Stakeholders in Sierra Leone to Understand the content and context of the Voluntary Guidelines

By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya

Green Scenery, a local NGO campaigning for the rights and livelihoods of Communities in Sierra Leone has engaged stakeholders on land rights on understanding content and context of the Voluntary Guidelines on land, forestry and fisheries in the country. The two day engagement was held on Wednesday 26th and Thursday 27th August 2015 at the Conference Hall of the Christian Health Association of Sierra Leone (CHASL) along Kinghaman Road in Freetown.

 

The workshop which brightened the knowledge base of land rights participants across the country aimed at promoting the transparent and participatory implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the context of National Food security in Sierra Leone.

The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT) in Sierra Leone is a three year project and is being funded by the German Federal Government, BMZ through the Welthungerhilfe. The Project is implemented by Green Scenery.

It could be recalled that the Government of Sierra Leone reconfirmed its commitment to improve governance of tenure by entering into partnerships for the implementation of the VGGT by making specific request to the Food and Agricultural Organization to implement the Voluntary Guidelines in Sierra Leone and hence to improve the governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests in the country.

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Local Consultants on Land rights and development issues took time to expose the participants to what is in the VGGT and how useful it is for a country like Sierra Leone where large scale land investment is a major focus at present.

The Director of Namati, Sonkita Conteh in his presentation of the VGGT to the participants said key components under the project will focus on building awareness and supporting the development of multi-stakeholder national forums in selected countries; preparing and disseminating capacity development tools in the form of technical guides; and supporting the implementation of the VGGT in Sierra Leone through a multi-sectoral intervention.

According to Mr. Conteh, the Guidelines promote responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests, with respect to all forms of tenure including public, private, communal, indigenous, customary, and

informal. He said the VGGT overarching goals are to achieve food security for all and support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security while supporting efforts towards the eradication of hunger and poverty. The Guidelines intends to contribute to achieving sustainable livelihoods, social stability, housing security, rural development, environmental protection, and sustainable social and economic development.

Mr. Sonkita Conteh’s presentation stresses on the eradication of hunger and poverty, and the sustainable use of the environment which depend in large measure on how people, communities and others gain access to land, fisheries and forests and access to natural resources is defined and regulated by tenure systems.

The Guidelines recognize that women who are already socially and economically marginalized are particularly vulnerable when tenure governance is weak. One of the principles the Guidelines are founded on is gender equality. Improving gender equality is important as women often have fewer and weaker tenure rights to land, fisheries and forests. This inequality is due to a number of factors, including biases in formal law, in customs, and in the division of labour in society and households are addressed in all actions to improve governance of tenure.

Sierra Leone is presently experiencing the massive influx of large scale land investment. Mr. Sonkita noted with this massive influx, what is needed is responsible investment and like Green Scenery and Alliance on Large Scale Land Acquisition Transparency (ALLAT), this has been their main cause of campaigning for the country. According to Mr. Conteh with all the hefty promises for job provisions to the communities, most of these large scale land investors have not been able to provide the promised jobs to them.

He also stressed on the need to be careful in making or signing agreements with the investors in other to be able to protect the environment.

Mr. Conteh added that at present there is pressure on the land as well as competition on the food because food such as cassava, sugar cane, kernel etc. that are used to eat are also being used for biofuel and ethanol production.

Mr. Emmanuel Gaima, an independent development consultant also made a valid presentation during the two days engagement.

It could be recalled that Green Scenery implemented an 18-month project in 2013-14 titled “Transparency and Participation in Acquisition of Large scale Land for Agricultural Investments in Sierra Leone”. The overall objective was to increase transparent and participatory governance in tenure rights and land management as it affects right to food and development of poor and marginalized groups.

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