May 18, 2015
The Government of Sierra Leone, through relevant line ministries, has taken leadership in the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGT) at country level.
The purpose of the ‘Voluntary Guidelines’ is to serve as reference and to provide guidance to improving governance in tenure of land, fisheries and forests, with the main goal of achieving food security for all and to support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security.
This decision was taken on Tuesday, 12 May during an Inter-Ministerial Committee meeting that was held at the conference room of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security at Youyi building in Freetown. The meeting was meant to update and discuss the way forward on the implementation of the VGGT project.
The key ministries of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Lands, Country Planning and the Environment, Fisheries and Marine Resources, and Justice endorsed the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Dr. Joseph Sam Sesay, as Chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Committee for a period of six months, while the Ministry of Lands, Country Planning and Environment agreed to host the VGGT secretariat.
Consultant for the VGGT project in Sierra Leone, Dr. Fatmata Kebay-Sesay, informed the ministerial committee that political will, multi-sectoral approach, an establishment of a multi-stakeholder platform and sourcing of qualified internal consultants, among others, were key in the implementation of the ‘Voluntary Guidelines’ at country level.
Dr. Kebay-Sesay told the committee that Sierra Leone has greater opportunity to incorporate the ‘Voluntary Guidelines’ because the country is currently reviewing its constitution and major policies within the line ministries. She called on the government to tap the expertise of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for technical guidance in reviewing the policies.
The new Committee Chairman, Dr. Sam Sesay, in an interview, stated that the ‘Voluntary Guidelines’ were very essential in the management of natural resources. “It is important for government to implement the VGGT in order to ensure that the natural resources benefit the people,” he stressed.
He noted that the country had over the years witnessed an overwhelming influx of foreign investors, with many acquiring large swathes of land for investment purposes, resulting to loss of land by people through lease agreements that might not be beneficial to land owning families.
Dr. Sesay maintained that better policies were to be formulated to address land issues in order to avoid a situation resulting to landlessness in the country.
Representative of FAO, Dr. Gabriel Rugalema, commended the government ministers for their active participation and for taking the lead in the implementation of the ‘Voluntary Guidelines’, noting that the country stands a better opportunity, especially now that it is undergoing economic transformation.
Dr. Rugalema implored the ministerial committee and partners to decentralize the VGGT process because of the complications involved in land management, as that will greatly help reduce tensions and conflicts over land issues.
The VGGT implementation processes started in Sierra Leone in 2015, but activities were scaled down due to the Ebola disease outbreak in the country.