This year's Goldman Environmental Prize winner says the battle for land rights in Liberia is just getting underway. Alfred Brownell is the recipient of the 2019 Goldman Environmental Prize and founder of Green Advocates an NGO and academic at Northeastern University School of Law
On September 19, Liberian President George Manneh Weah signed into law the Land Rights Bill (LRB), a landmark piece of legislation that recognizes the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities to their customary lands and gives customary land the same standing as private land in Liberia.
A CLASSIC RESPONSE from governments and businesses in recent time is not just to characterize legitimate grievances by Indigenous Peoples and local communities as anti- government, anti-development, and anti-investment. They are waging wars against Indigenous Peoples and individuals who are protecting the planet and its people by criminalizing their legitimate grievances and then threatening, arresting, intimidating, and imprisoning those who dare challenge this mode of development.
In the fading afternoon light, Kou Berpa leads a small group out to a patch of land a short distance off of the main road in Ganta, Liberia.
The land is strewn with rocks and dried vegetation. The jagged remains of a tree stump consume one corner. It’s easy to miss the green shoots scattered across the grounds – the beginnings of a crop of corn that Kou has planted.
Liberia in the 1990s was a place of turmoil, host to a brutal civil war that would kill at least 250,000 people and leave many thousands more displaced.
The war uprooted Martha* from her farm in Lofa County. Her husband, Joseph, was a rebel fighter aligned with one of the factions vying for control, and had taken her and the couple’s four children away from the family’s land, to a city closer to the rebels’ base.
On the day in 1996 that he was killed, Martha felt her own life slipping away.
Liberian NGO Green Advocates has been using OpenLandContracts.org to give rural communities more leverage in the decisions that affect their lands.
In September, Liberia passed the long-awaited Land Rights bill into law.
Addressing gender disparities in the context of land reforms is not easy. Effectively addressing gender issues takes time and effort, which can sometimes make it more expensive in the initial stages of a project or program. However, evidence shows that integrating gender throughout land reform interventions not only increases benefits for women, but strengthens the intervention overall. Meaningfully including gender into land reform approaches often requires a change in behavior among decision-makers and program participants that, in some cases, may take years, even decades.