Monrovia – Multi Stakeholders’ Platforms (MSPs) in Project Affected Communities in Sinoe, Maryland, Nimba and Grand Cape Mount Counties have benefitted from series of trainings on Land Use and Land Verification.
The exercises are in continuation of the implementation of activities under the Assessed Funding Project implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with funding from the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and in partnership with the Government of Liberia through the National Bureau of Concession (NBC).
Participants were drawn from the leaderships of the Sustainable Partnership for Mining Affected Communities (SPAMAC) in Nimba County, the Sustainable Partnership Initiative (SPI), in Grand Cape Mount County, the United Communities Initiative (UCI) in Sinoe County and the Reliable Partnership for Oil Palm Affected Communities (REPOPAC) in Maryland County as well as representatives from local leaderships, women and youth groups.
Since land issues in Liberia continue to be increasingly at the center of today’s conversation as they cut across different elements of the sustainable development agenda, the training was aimed at improving the knowledge of beneficiaries on existing land use and status of concession companies.
Project Affected Communities (PACs) within the operations of Sime Darby in Sinje, Grand Cape Mount County, Arcelor Mittal in Yekepa, Nimba County, Maryland Oil Palm in Maryland County and Golden Veroleum Liberia in Sinoe County had the opportunity to assess current land use by concession companies.
Discussions were also initiated around alternative land for farming or out-growers schemes and strengthening communication skills and networking amongst the various PACs in the four conflict–prone Counties.
These discussions had preceded earlier meetings held with residents of these communities, by the Liberia Land Authority (LAA) and provided deeper understanding on the current state of affairs and the proposed categories of Land Ownership as contained in the Land Rights Bill that had gone before the National Legislature.
Over 75 Participants also got a clearer understanding on the legal procedures regarding land ownership.
They were motivated and encouraged through presentations and group exercises on the need to utilize negotiation skills that will yield better results in future engagements regarding concession related issues and finding solutions to long standing inter-clan land conflicts.
Beneficiaries expressed appreciation to the Government of Liberia through the NBC as well as development partners –UNDP and UNMIL for the exercises which have further increased their knowledge on land rights and improved and strengthen their mediation skills.
Angeline Yeke from New Yekepa described the training as “educative”.
“We are going to educate our people about land rights, how to own and use their own land.
This is something we had no knowledge about” Ms. Yeke noted.
“UCI function is to bring peace and what we have been taught, has re-energize me mentally and broadened my scope on the mechanisms needed to mediate land conflicts” intimated Matthew Greene from the United Communities Initiative in Sinoe County.
The trainings were held simultaneously with the conduct of the first monthly meetings by the respective MSPs since they were established beginning May this year, to work through specific concerns arising from concession operations as well as framing collective agendas.
Coincidentally, the United Communities Initiative (UCI) in Sinoe County during its first monthly meeting, reported a major breakthrough in a long standing conflict in Butaw District between two mediation committees-the Abloteh and the Butaw Welfare Development Association (BWEDA).
As part of efforts to break the stalemate, which had existed since 2012, the UCI utilizing its conflict prevention and mitigation skills acquired under the Assessed Funding Project embarked on a mediation campaign.
UCI reported that the two groups have now agreed to return to status quo-endorsing the Abloteh Mediation Committee as the group officially authorized to engage the Golden Veroleum Liberia Concession Company on land related issues within the Project Affected Community of Butaw.
According to a member of UCI Sorbor Wisseh, the move was a major breakthrough in maintaining peace in Butaw District as members are now resolved to work together.
He said a resolution to that effect is expected to be signed by both parties soon, to seal the deal.
For his part, the Development Superintendent of Butaw Togba Bestman lauded the efforts of UCI and the affected groups to bring the conflict to an end.
“I feel proud of UCI and the parties concerned for amicably resolving this conflict that has existed in Butaw over the years” Mr. Bestman pointed out.
Mr. Bestman also praised development partners including UNDP and UNMIL for establishing and empowering the Multi-stakeholder Platform in Sinoe County.
A representative from Golden Veroleum Liberia Dickson Patten, who witnessed the affirmation by the parties concern expressed delight over the decision by Butaw citizens to resolve their conflict.
For her part, the Project Manager under UNDP-led Extractive Project, Christiana Solomon emphasized that with this latest intervention by UCI, it was worth noting that activities being implemented under the Assessed Funding Project are gradually yielding results.