LIBERIA: Participatory Land Use Planning Workshop For CSOs Held In Monrovia Ahead of Community Engagement

A five days’ workshop in Participatory Land Use Planning (PLUP) for a team of civil society actors ahead of community engagement in Lofa has been conducted in Monrovia with call on participants to take ownership of the project. The workshop, which ran from November 30-December 4 was held at Cape Hotel in Mamba Point. About 15 persons from Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), SeDEV, Parley and SCNL attended the 5-day knowledge sharing session.

Workshop facilitators include a team of experts from the School of Agriculture, Policy & Development, University of Reading (UK), the University of Twente (The Netherlands), SDI Liberia, Milieudefensie (The Netherlands), as well as Saskia Ozinga and David Young (independent consultants). Resource persons include Silas Siakor from IDH and Negatus Wright from LISGIS.  The PLUP project in Liberia is being led by the University of Reading from the United Kingdom. The Project is supported by Sustainable Development Initiative (SDI) in Liberia in connection with SESDEV and Parley. The project will complement ongoing customary land formalization process in rural communities.

The purpose of the workshop was to: equip the PLUP field team with the skills to interpret and use land resources (GIS) maps as the basis for a series of inclusive community dialogues, jointly design an inclusive, participatory methodology for the series of community dialogues and to consider how to integrate land resources maps with local knowledge and aspirations to develop a draft PLUP in Kolahun and Vahun, Lofa County. Knowledge acquired from the workshop will enhance the vision of the project team to enable local people to get the best deal possible from their land, by reshaping the relationship between state, the private sector and local communities.

“The people of Kolahun and Vahun want to make more and better use of their land. But knowing what is best in the midst of competing demands between food production, and security, livelihoods and investment and reducing deforestation remains a major challenge to them”, the project document is quoted as saying.

James Otto of SDI described the PLUP as an opportunity to work with local communities in Kolahun and Vahun to evaluate, and where possible, identify gaps affecting them on land use with a focus on disadvantaged groups and make appropriate recommendations for improvement. “Now is the time CSOs work directly with communities to evaluate the use of their land, identify gaps with key focus on disadvantaged groups such as women, and make appropriate recommendations for positive change”.

The Participatory Land Use Planning is a major process that forms part of the customary land formalization. Land Rights Act, Chapter 10: Demarcation and Categories of Customary Land, Article 38: Categories of Customary Lands states that, a community may divide its customary land into various categories by developing a Land Use Plan.  The Participatory Land Use Planning project will enable local communities to meet and interact with each other to discuss and decide how to manage their land and other natural resources in their area. It is the outcome of this process they called jointly developed participatory land use planning, intended to mitigate conflict and enhance land productivity. It is against this background that, the PLUP project have come to help the people of Kolahun and Vahun understand how they can make the best use of their land by identifying what they need and what is possible to do with their land in terms of social, economic and environmental activities.

The Participatory land use planning will not only help the people of Kolahun and Vahun to get the best deal out of their land, it is also a means by which communities can be empowered to redesign the relationship between the state, private actors and the community on land matters.

Over the next few months, community members in Kolahun and Vahun will work with the team of PLUP to dialogue over communities’ traditional knowledge of the land and identify their needs for future development taking into account land preservation and sustainability for the enhancement of livelihood initiatives.

The PLUP team will undertake two rounds of fieldwork in two months’ time. The first fieldwork be will used to understand communities’ knowledge of local resources and their objectives to utilize the resources.  Outcome of those dialogues will be combined and captured on spatial maps that will be accessible by anyone including community members. Specifically, the maps will capture how the land is currently being used, roads, rivers, mountains, forest cover, land suitability, concession boundaries and other infrastructures.

During the second round of fieldwork, the draft PLUP documents along with maps will be shared with communities for discussion and validation, where changes or corrections will be made and final document presented.  The PLUP document will be in a format that can be communicated easily at both local and national levels, with suggestions for monitoring the implementation of the PLUP. At the end, the approved and validated PLUP document will be made available to appropriate community institutions such as the Community Land Development and Management Committees (CLDMCs) for easy access and implementation by communities.

With the availability of the PLUP document, nobody nor even investor can fool communities about the use of their land because they know what is on their land. Community will also be able to effectively use their land thereby mitigating conflict and tempering with protection areas. The project team is comprised of staff from the School of Agriculture, Policy & Development, University of Reading (UK), the University of Twente (The Netherlands), SDI Liberia, Milieudefensie (The Netherlands), as well as Saskia Ozinga and David Young (independent consultants).

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