Building Community Voices around Responsible Land Governance: ALLAT Members benefit from Citizen Journalism training in Port Loko

By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya
Multinational land investment keeps heightens in the country. Building Community Voices around Responsible Land Governance in Sierra Leone is the only option that will enhance fullest Community participation from affected people in the country. A major advocate on responsible land management and administration in the country; the Action for Large-scale Land Acquisition Transparency (ALLAT) has taken the center stage in building community voices around responsible land governance in Sierra Leone through their land advocacy programme.
During a three-day experience sharing program in Port Loko, Network members were trained on citizen journalism and how to communicate information whenever they have it in their operational areas. The training purposely feature experience sharing on land related issues from experts from Cambodia and aimed at strengthening the capacity of ALLAT members to build community voices using modern communication skills.

Mr. Abdulai Bunwai, the ALLAT National Coordinator said the training is part of their capacity building strategy for their member organizations so that they “can be able to effectively and efficiently able to engage with communities they are working with to be able to air out their voices about the challenges they are facing regarding land administration and governance in the country”.
The Chairman of ALLAT’s Organizing Committee and also Director of Green Scenery, Joseph Rahall said there are so-called Corporate Companies “who are making use of the weaknesses of the country, its laws and governance to their own benefit”. He mentioned that there are companies who went to Port Loko and occupy a total number of about 42,000ha of land and that were not able to develop the said land but later on look around to sell their concessional areas to viable investors for huge amount “of monies of which they never spent to acquire those lands in the district”.
The Sierra Leone Agriculture allegedly did the same thing in Pujehun District by acquiring a huge portion of land to only be sold to other potential buyers. The government of Sierra Leone neither the local government never received any known amount as benefit from those sales transactions.
Mr. Rahall mentioned that as elections are very close in the country, ignoring to amend some of these land issues in the country might likely be some of the causative issues and triggers to violence in the country. He mentioned many problems that may occur if land issues are not addressed properly and made reference to Countries like Cambodia who have good examples of handling community issues in their country.
A representative of the German Welthungerhilfe, Umurana Sowa said they are committed to ALLAT because his institution wants to ensure ALLAT is formidable signifying “the presence of WHH in any activities of the Network to ensured”.
The training is initially planned for one or two ALLAT members to benefit during an overseas training in Cambodia. That decision was later reversed to suite and ensure all network members benefit from the initiative through hosting of the training programme in the country. As representatives of large constituents, Mr. Sowa emphasized on the need for all Network Members to properly make use of the opportunity to gain knowledge being share with the ultimate aim of utilizing such knowledge to their various networks in their respective Communities in the country.
A representative of the Port Loko District Council, Mr. Hassan Bangura said because of the proliferation of multinational investors in the country, the issue of land has been very critical these days. He reiterated the fact that land is a precious commodity that was given to man by nature adding that “because of settlements, wars and other historical events, people are claiming ownership and discriminating others who also have the opportunity of using the same land.
Commenting on the fact that some land investors are causing disputes in various communities the country, the Port Loko District Council representative noted that “the issue of subletting land is a big challenge for the country which they in the Council is also drawing the attention of central government to address.
After drawing reference to the importance of the training for their District, he mentioned that the issue of land in the country has to do with the appropriate legal instruments ranging from the central and local levels. According to the land tenure system in the country, the administration of land in the Central level is different to the Local level. At the Local level, the Port Loko District Council representative said the protection or custody of land for the family or community is placed under the Local Authorities who sometimes wrongfully act against the wishes of the Communities in taking decisions about their land.
He also added that some family members immediately after a woman in their family is married to another man, they immediately delink her from the ownership of the family property. Typically, women play a great role in the utilization of land in the country ranging from farming and other uses but clearly made it known that women have minimal land ownership right in their District.
One of the Trainers who is also the Community Media Coordinator from the Building Community Voices in Cambodia; Ran Sopheak Pagna shared the experiences of land administration in his homeland. He said in Cambodia, there is a unique system of land administration wherein a particular Ministry for Land Management is responsible for the proper land management of the country and establish who will own a land as well as who should lease it. An investor he added is governed or strictly allowed to properly follow the concession of land management. Unlike in Sierra Leone, Mr. Pagna said the responsibility of land management and administration in the provinces lies to the Local Authorities.

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