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Stakeholders discuss headway for VGGT implementation

September 28, 2017 

Stakeholders during the session

Stakeholders in the agriculture, forestry, fisheries, land and rural development sectors in Sierra Leone have held the 4th Multi-Stakeholder Platform workshop on the implementation of the Voluntarily Guidelines on the Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT).

The two-day workshop was held on the 19 and 20 September 2017, at the Golden Tulip Essential Kimbima in Aberdeen, Freetown. It brought together representatives of government ministries, departments and agencies; civil society, non-governmental organizations, local authorities and other development partners.

The objective of the workshop, among other things, was to review the implementation of the VGGT process, including practical examples of its application to improve tenure governance in Sierra Leone.

In his keynote address, the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, who is also the Chairman of the VGGT Inter-Ministerial committee, Maya Moiyo Kaikai, stated that the struggle for land is an age old issue, but noted that the issue became tougher as a result of the emergence of large-scale land acquisition by multinational investment companies.

Kaikai named several chiefdoms among others in the country that are faced with problems, including inter-boundary disputes.

He expressed optimism that the problems surrounding the access and ownership of land in Sierra Leone will be solved by the implementation of the National Land Policy. “The activity that is very relevant now is the sensitization on the VGGT and the National Land Policy that you have started”, he said. He encouraged stakeholders to work harder for the successful implementation of the VGGT and the National Land Policy.

The Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Marie Jalloh informed the gathering that her ministry is focused on promoting production and productivity, commercialization, and also encouraging large scale agricultural investment, for which the farmers require land.

“Land is a very valuable asset to the farming sector, but, in recent times, we have seen multinational companies taken over the land that our smallholder farmers are supposed to benefit from” she noted. She advocated for an equitable allocation and access to land for both the multinational companies and smallholder farmers.

The FAO Representative in Sierra Leone, Nyabenyi Tipo, informed the gathering that the VGGT implementation significantly contributed to the formulation of the National Land Policy, as the document has over 90 paragraphs that are consistent with the VGGT guidelines.

She noted that there are emerging concerns raised by local communities from the sensitizations held on the National Land Policy, but assured stakeholders that FAO will work with government and other development partners to address those concerns.

Participants identified tenure reform priorities in the land, fisheries and forestry sectors for the next 12 months; discussed the role of the private sector in implementing land related investments in a responsible manner; identified lessons learnt, good practices as well as remaining challenges, and discussed the way forward for the sustainable implementation of VGGT process in the country.

At the end of the two-day workshop, they produced a twenty-eight point communique that, among other things, acknowledged that Sierra Leone continues to be fully committed to the implementation of the VGGT and that there are ongoing efforts to improve tenure governance in the land, forestry and fisheries sectors in the country.

They also acknowledged that it is of utmost importance to ensure Tenure Governance becomes a top priority on the development agenda in Sierra Leone, reflected in national strategies and budgets, in order to sustain effective tenure governance reform in the country.

They therefore recommended that the Ministry of Lands Country Planning and Environment in collaboration with development partners, undertake community sensitization programmes on VGGT and National Land Policy in local languages and to undertake further capacity development on same for relevant stakeholders.

They also recommended to the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources to ensure proper licensing and marking of fishing vessels and to provide regular updates on the fishing vessel registry, and to implement an effective Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) system in compliance with international standards to better monitor fish landings in the artisanal and industrial sectors and effectively combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

They further recommended to the Forestry Division and the National Protected Area Authority in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security to place draft Forestry Act and Wildlife and Conservation Act in line with VGGT principles and including provisions for Community-based Forest Management (CBFM), before Parliament by mid-2018.

They pledged to work with government authorities to ensure the implementation of the recommendations.

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