September 30, 2015 By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)
“It’s about how you (Sierra Leone) compare with global best practices and what you can do to match up, given that land is a very complex issue”
In December 2014, Sierra Leone was invited to participate in Land Governance Assessment Framework (LGAF). While other countries had started up to 6-7 months earlier, only Sierra Leone has gotten to a validation of a country Synthesis Report.
At the validation workshop of the land governance framework draft synthesis report last Friday, 25th September, 2015, at the Santanno House, Howe Street, Freetown, World Bank LGAF Country Coordinator, Pete Kaindaneh, said the importance of land governance in the socio-economic development of a nation cannot be overemphasized, as the allocation of land across competing uses can determine the type and level of economic activities that can be carried out by individuals, groups, and businesses.
“The competing use of land – the need for housing, agriculture, industry, mining, etc., has become a source of conflict in many countries where land governance and management is not clearly defined or governed,” he said.
The need for a systematic assessment of land governance, he said, arises from three factors: policy importance, institutional fragmentation and technical complexity.
Firstly, Pete said the institutional arrangements governing land have emerged as a key factor for sustainable growth and poverty reduction which is increasingly supported by continental and global policy initiatives and also in Sierra Leone. Examples are the 2009 African Union Framework and Guidelines on land policy and the 2014 African Union principles for large scale land based investment, and the endorsement in 2012 by the Committee for world Food security (CFS) of the Voluntary Guidelines for responsible tenure of land, forest and fisheries in the context of food security (VGGT),” said Pete.
Secondly, he continued, as a result of institutional fragmentation and duality in tenure systems, where responsibility for land is spread over a large number of government institutions, which are often poorly coordinated, there can be a wide gap between legal provisions and their actual implementation.
And thirdly, he said the technical complexity and context specificity of land issues, and the fact that change may be resisted by powerful stakeholders benefiting from the status quo, implies that progress will depend on the ability to forge a consensus among experts in a participatory and deliberative process, based on a comprehensive analysis.
The Government of Sierra Leone has included effective and sustainable land management as one of its strategic objectives in the Agenda for Prosperity for 2013-2018, including the adoption of a comprehensive land use policy that is assumed to be understood by all, and aimed at ensuring optimal gains for the overall development of the country. The drafting process for the land policy is ongoing and the latest version became available in July 2015 and proposes wide ranging reforms.
Another development is the start of the VGGT process in Sierra Leone as part of the G8 commitment. Although at the onset of the CAADP, VGGT process had not been conceived, there is now a clarion call for the inclusion of the VG principles into CAADP investment compacts; to harmonize policies of different ministries; and to set up complaint mechanisms at national levels.
Developed by the World Bank, in partnership with FAO, IFAD, IFPRI, UN Habitat and the African Union Land Policy Initiative, the LGAF is a diagnostic instrument to assess the status of land governance at the country or sub-national level using a highly participatory and country-driven process that draws systematically on local expertise and existing evidence.
According to Pete, an analysis of this nature would allow for the comparison of the state of land governance in Sierra Leone to global good practices in key areas of responsible land governance such as: how rights to land (at group or individual level) are defined, can be exchanged, and transformed; how public oversight over land use, management, and taxation is exercised; the extent of land owned by the state is defined, how the state exercises it, and how state land is acquired or disposed of; procedures in place to deal with large-scale land-related investment; the management of land information and ways in which such information can be accessed; and avenues to resolve and manage disputes and hold officials to account.
World Bank Senior Land Governance Specialist/Global Coordinator LGAF Development Research Group, Thea Hilhorst, said the LGAF is all about self-assessment rather than ranking of countries.
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“It’s about how you (Sierra Leone) compare with global best practices and what you can do to match up, given that land is a very complex issue,” said Thea.
Also speaking on behalf of the World Bank, Senior Agriculture Economist at the Sierra Leone Country Office, Hardwick Tchale, said the report will give the Bank, and other development partners, a clear picture to engage the government on the issue of land reform.
“This will create the basis for us to engage effectively to support the implementation,” said Hardwick.
The draft report was put together by an all-Sierra Leonean team of experts, comprising the Country Coordinator, nine experts and 44 panel members. Nine panel of expert investigators made presentations during the workshop, stimulating exchanges from participants on the land situation in the country.
One of the participants is the Chairman National Council of Paramount Chiefs, PC Charles Caulker. He described the LGAF as an eye-opener to some of the concepts and perceptions people hold regarding the ‘thorny subject of land’.
“Before now there was no systematic management of land in the country, but there are still many unanswered questions,” PC Caulker said, adding that a new policy should take into account the practice of land owners re-registering their land every three years or as the case may be.
Issues surrounding the right, or lack of it, of women to own land and the Krios to own land in the Provinces came up during the discussions. While it was suggested that some women do own land and some Krios have acquired land in the Provinces the legality of such practices is questionable.
“It may be practiced in some areas but is it legal? We need to have it systematized and have it on paper,” said another participant, Dr. Fatmata Sesay-Kebbay- VGGT Coordinator for Sierra Leone.
After the workshop, the draft Report will be revised and the policy framework finalized; providing actionable recommendations which the government is expected to take to the donors for implementation.