Land Owners and Users have called on the government of Sierra Leone to expedite the implementation of the newly launched land policy and vigorously apply the Voluntary Guidelines on the responsible Governance of the Tenure of land (VGT).
This call was made during the Alliance for Large-scale Land Acquisition Transparency (ALLAT) at the Police Officers Mess in Freetown on Wednesday 29th March 2016. During this land conference, land owners and users also urge the government to bring all existing land lease agreements and Memorandum Of Understandings in line with the National Land Policy.
ALLAT and other Civil Society Organizations were also urged by the land owners and users to help in the robust monitoring of the implementation of the National Land Policy and the Voluntary Guidelines to ensure transparency and accountability in the country. They also called on Corporate entities to perform due diligence and comply with provisions of the National Land Policy and Voluntary Guidelines as well as explore and accentuate business models that will generate a win, win situation for all (Government, Communities and the businesses). The National Land Policy was approved in November 2015 and finally launched by H.E. the President on 23rd March 2017.
During the land conference, Various stakeholders including FAO, Christian Aid, WHH and ALLAT and government officials made tremendous contributions during their brief opening statements. Dr. Alphajor Charm, Deputy Director, Planning, Policy and Research Development at the Ministry of Lands Country Planning and the Environment made a presentation on the newly launched land policy implementation plan and the role of community people including land owners and users. He said the National Land Policy aspires “to move towards a clearer, more efficient and just land tenure system that shall provide for social and public demands, stimulate responsible investment and form a basis for the nation’s continued development.”
Jobo Samba from the same Lands Ministry and the VGGT Secretariat also made a brighter presentation on the Voluntary Guidelines on the responsible Governance of the tenure of land with particular emphasis on what has been achieved from the resolutions of the 2016 multi stakeholder’s meeting and what next towards moving the VGGT forward. Since the large scale land issues are in the provinces, the role of local councils and traditional leaders in land governance at the chiefdom and district levels were also discussed.
The Country manager of Christian Aid Madam Jeanne Kamara urges government and land owners not to give out their community land used for communal purposes for any investment purposes. In as much as burial grounds are sacred in Africa, Madam said secret societies, graveyards, reserved lands to name but a few should not be sold to foreign companies. She stressed that Chiefs and Foreign Investors should perform a participatory land mapping in other for their decisions not to go against the land owners adding that the land conference was timely since it will give them the awareness and opportunities to on how they should lease their lands. Madam Kamara also noted that there is need for community people to know the legal implication as well as the type of agricultural work to be done in the land before they can sign any land deal in their communities.
The Natural Resources Management Officer at the Food and Agricultural Organization, Christian Schulze said his office has been supporting the implementation of the voluntary guidelines on the responsible governance of the tenure of land in the country. He expressed gladness to the government of Sierra Leone for launching the National Land Policy and further reechoed the FAO’s commitment and support towards the voluntary guidelines in the country.
ALLAT is working on large scale land investment in the country. The ALLAT National Coordinator, Abdulai Bun Wai also expressed thanks and appreciation for the government of Sierra Leone for launching the land policy which will be a vital working and guiding document for their organization in advocating for land issues in the country. Commenting further on the land conference, Mr. Wai said it will raise the awareness on the implementation of the land policy and also create a platform for people to know how to lease and acquire lands in Sierra Leone. He further informed the participants that in any land deal of large quantum, the owner of the land suppose to know or indicate the amount he or she wants to sell but such is not happening in Sierra Leone. He encouraged the community the participants to contribute immensely to the program.
Story by: Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya (email@example.com)