Green Scenery trains Land Rights Activists on the use of the Voluntary Guidelines

By The Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya
With the influx of many large scale land investors in the country, Green scenery, a local livelihood oriented organization has abreast land rights activists with more awareness on land issues in relation to the voluntary guidelines on the responsible governance on the tenure of Land and fisheries in the country. The four day intensive trainers of trainers workshop was organized at the Saint Edwards Secondary School Compound on the 29th February on to the 3rd March 2016 with key land rights activists representation from Sierra Leone and Liberia.
green scenery
The rationale for the workshop was based on sharing ideas and/or experiences on the management and governance of livelihood resources (including land, forest, fisheries etc.) in various communities represented at the training workshop, educate participants on the main features and provisions contained in the Voluntary Guidelines, train participants on how to relate theory to practice in the implementation of the Voluntary Guideline in their respective communities and train participants on how to implement/replicate knowledge and skills gained during the training in their various communities.
During the workshop various presentations were presented to the participants including the main objectives and basic concepts of the Tenure Guidelines and the participants leant what the guidelines are, what are the main objectives of the guidelines, the definition of the basic concepts under the guidelines(Governance, Governance of Tenure, and Responsible Governance), what is Responsible Governance and were also able to compared RESPONSIBLE GOVERNANCE and WEAK GOVERNANCE of Tenure.
During the trainings also, a background history (the processes that led to the subsequent endorsement of the guidelines in 2012 by a special session of the General Assembly) and facts about the Guidelines was presented to the participants including the Sierra Leone chapter of the VGGT and the involvement of CSOs. There was also a presentation on the Logic and Principles for Responsible Governance of Tenure including the five General Principles and 10 Implementation Principles.
It was learnt that responsible Tenure depends on whether or not these general principles are incorporated into policies, laws, institutions and services. When mapping the Actors and Roles of Tenure of Governance, participants from Sierra Leone and Liberia learnt what is Land Governance?, who are the actors in tenure of governance and what are the roles of these actors.
During the plenary and working group exercises, the pparticipants were tasked to revisit the (land, fisheries and forest) tenure cases that were identified during the first day of training and see whether processes and procedures in these cases conform with the 5 general principles of the VGGT already discussed in the presentations. The Participants working were tasked to identify tenure governance actors, list their roles and propose two impacts that the full implementation of the VGGT would have on these roles. The ppresentations also followed the group exercise in which participants demonstrated their individual and collective familiarities with the actors, their roles, and the general principles of the Voluntary Guidelines as they relate to these actors and roles.
Giving a brief country Status on Tenure Governance in Sierra Leone, participants gathered during the workshop that traditional authorities collude with companies/high capital owners to disadvantage the poor land-owning families in the provinces. It was also discussed that there is corruption in the sale of land especially in urban settings where a single plot of land can be sold to more than one prospective owners. There is awareness among communities about exploitation in large-scale land acquisition and most people have now refused to patronize with companies and women are still marginalised in land ownership which was planned to be addressed by all stakeholders in tenure governance.
Participants from Liberia who are here mainly to understudy said two workshops on VGGT have been held in their country and one of which tried to address the issue of information dissemination and education of communities on the VGGT and a Communication Strategy for the communities, which aims at the full domestication of the VGGT, is expected soon. They also indicate that there are good laws presently but there is a dare need for robust enforcement mechanisms in Liberia. The lessons learned from the Sierra Leone experience could be used to make processes and procedures of the VGGT implementation exercise in Liberia smooth and successful.
Raising their recommendations, participants agreed that inter-ministerial roles and responsibilities relating to governance are sometimes conflicting, information sharing among CSOs on the status and/or process of VGGT is important, CSOs, though important actors in the process, but have no mainstream role. It was also important that knowledge about all relevant actors in tenure governance is key to the overall/successful implementation of the VGGT and cross-border experience sharing is important for the successful implementation of the VGGT.
The Director of Green Scenery, Joseph Rahall said the Voluntary Guidelines is coming at a time when the country needs it most to deal with issues such as customary practices and customary tenure rights of land.

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