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FAO engages stakeholders on VGGT

September 29, 2015 By Alusine Sesay

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) yesterday hosted key players at a multi-stakeholder platform on the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGT) of Land, Fisheries and Forest in the context of National Food Security.

Speaking during the opening ceremony at Shagri-La Entertainment Complex on Lumley Beach in Freetown, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Franklyn Bai Kargbo stated that the eradication of hunger and poverty and the sustainable use of the environment depend in large measures on how people, communities and others gain access to land, fisheries and forests.

“In Sierra Leone, the livelihoods of many, particularly the rural poor, are based on secured and equitable access to and control over land, fisheries and forests,” he said.

He noted that pressure on natural resources was increasing particularly as a result of an augmented rate of land transfers of different sizes for agriculture, mining, timber, tourism, energy and speculative purposes, and increase in population, urban expansions, environmental degradation, climate change and conflicts.

“Inadequate and insecure tenure rights to natural resources often result in extreme poverty and hunger. It is the government’s job to set the framework for how people should get access to natural resources, who should use what resources, for how long and under what conditions,” he said.

Mr. Kargbo informed the meeting that government was putting in place various improved laws, policies, and regulations.

Some of the frameworks are currently being revised, providing an opportunity to ensure their compliance with provisions of the VGGT.

The Justice Minister observed that improved governance of tenure for the development of communities remains a huge challenge, and that it needed effective coordination and communication among stakeholders.

“Increased efforts are still needed to strengthen coordination and communication among different stakeholders in the natural resources sectors,” he urged.

FAO Country Representative in Sierra Leone, Dr. Gabriel Ragulema, said the organisation has been supporting the implementation of the VGGT for over two years, and that numerous works have been done with tangible achievements.

He thanked the government of Germany for funding the VGGT project and expressed hope that the funding would be maintained for few more years.

“I also encourage other donors to join this initiative because the challenges of land governance in Sierra Leone are many and will take years to address,” he called.

He added that FAO was impressed by what he described as deliberate effort of the government of Sierra Leone to integrate the VGGT process and institutionalise it within key line ministries, including Fisheries, Agriculture, Lands and Justice.

“Let me say that Sierra Leone has taken a bold step in the implementation of not only the VGGT project but also governance of tenure as global process. Sierra Leone is ahead of other countries that are piloting the VGGT process,” he observed.

Deputy Minister of Lands and Country Planning, Ahmed Kanu, said the debate over large-scale acquisition of land has become central in the food security strategy within the context of poverty alleviation.

He noted that the demand for land, clean energy and water had sparked large-scale land grabbing in the interest of financial markets, and that the solutions required collaboration among all stakeholders.

Meanwhile, the VGGT seeks to improve governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests for the benefit of all.

One of its numerous objectives is to improve governance by providing guidance and information on internationally accepted practices for system that deals with the rights to use, manage and control land, fisheries and forests.

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