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FAO/Government unveil mapping initiative in Port Loko in an effort to Protect Women’s Customary Land Rights in Sierra Leone

 By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya

Three villages of the North-Western region in Port Loko district have recently validated their village maps showing land plots and their sizes of all land-owning families. The beneficiary villages of this initiative, Matatie, Rosint and Rokupr Wosie have for three days been involved in the validation of their plots of land including boundary lines and marks between neighbors as well as neighboring villages.

The Mapping project aimed at getting a land cadastre where all community lands are going to be mapped and registered for peaceful resolution in the country.

The exercise brought together all landowners of the different communities as well as their neighbors. Present at the validation activities were the Government represented by the Ministry of Lands country planning and the environment, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Civil Society and its partner, Green Scenery and United for the Protection of Human Rights charged with the responsibility of carrying out the task.

In the initiative titled: Promoting Women’s Customary Land Rights in Sierra Leone, a project supported by the Irish Government through Irish Aid, the world body for food Security, FAO was charged with the responsibility of managing the project which, saw its implementation in all regions of Sierra Leone as a pilot project. The pilot is meant to unearth the necessary challenges, obstacles, and lessons learnt during implementation to inform government that is preparing for a much wider application of developing a national land cadaster.

At the Chiefdom headquarters of the de-amalgamated Bureh chiefdom, the Regent or acting Paramount Chief of high religious extract, referred to the Quran for those who steal property stating that one will be punished by the weight of the property stolen. He made this reference to those men who grab land from women preventing women from enjoying their land rights.

Dr. Samuel Mabikke, the FAO representative in charge of land and natural resources, expressed satisfaction over the way and rate the project was implemented by their partners; Green Scenery and United for the Protection of Human Rights and emphasizing on how the customary land rights of women are now being protected through the mapping exercise that ensures tenure rights to men, women, boys and girls.

The Government representatives, Mr. Ngiawee and Samba, both elaborated the National Land Policy and the VGGT spotting areas for the need for mapping and the protection of women’s rights to access and control land. Examples were cited in other parts of the country where community land were leased without understanding the dangers until they occurred. The errors are now posing difficulties to amend. The exercise, according to them is a calculated government initiative to help communities with these problems but also help sustain peace in the communities.  “Your communities now know how much land you have” Samba said “and safeguards you from undertaking a bad transaction,” he concluded.

Earlier, Joseph Rahall, representing the CSOs in the operation expressed thanks to the government for making their operations possible, FAO for choosing them to undertake the initiative and for Irish Aid that provided the much-needed funding allowing them as CSOs to learn from the experience.

The maps; village and clan/family land of Matatie, Rosint, and Rokupr Wosie in the Kalangba section of Bureh Chiefdom were then publically displayed in each of the communities (one after the other) for the entire communities to inspect, interrogate and proffer corrections for the final maps. All of the exercises were enmeshed with cultural music and dancing and many pictures.

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