Walking with villagers: How Liberia’s Land Rights Policy was shaped from the grassroots
Today in Liberia, it is estimated that around half the country’s land mass has been promised to foreign companies and investors. From 2009 to 2011, as part of its Community Land Protection Program, the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) and NAMATI embarked on a two-year action-research project to support rural communities in Liberia to protect, document, and manage their customary lands and natural resources. Drawing from lessons learned in the field, SDI and NAMATI sought to bring the voices and realities from rural Liberia to influential policymakers. Heavily informed by their field work, they embarked on a policy advocacy campaign from 2012 to 2013 that utilised a diverse set of tactics to influence Liberia’s newly proposed Land Rights Policy. The Policy, passed in 2013, is a historic and progressive document which recognises and guarantees customary land ownership to rural communities in an unprecedented way.
This paper explains and analyses the steps SDI and NAMATI took to help shape Liberia’s Land Rights Policy. It provides insights that may be of interest to practitioners in other countries engaging in land reforms. It sets out the opportunities and challenges of advocating for greater recognition of community land rights in national policies.
This paper has been produced under IIED’s Legal tools for citizen empowerment project.