liberia land disputes established relationship traditional law

The Changing Face of Land Disputes in Liberia
sierra leone foreign investors family farms

Farmland - the New Blood Diamonds in Sierra Leone?

Land can be more contentious than diamonds until we see that the worth of all Earth is common wealth for all to share. These two 2013 excerpts are from (1) IRIN, May 20, on Liberia, and (2) Truthout, May 23, on Sierra Leone by J. Baxter.

by IRIN and by Joan Baxter.

Land disputes are increasing, most of them as a result of weak land laws.

Tens of thousands of Liberians were displaced during the 1999-2003 civil war. Many returned to their villages to find their land had been sold on or taken over by neighbors.

Since 2009 many of the neighbor-neighbor disputes have been resolved without too much difficulty, given that the conflicting parties already had an established relationship, and thus a shared interest in negotiating.

Land ownership in Liberia is based on Common Law which requires an owner to have a title deed. But a parallel system of traditional law, based on verbal agreement, is also prevalent, creating widesperead confusion over who owns what. Landowners as a result, often sell to multiple buyers, opening up room for conflict.

Over the past year and a half land conflicts between communities and investors trying to develop natural resources increased.

To read more

It's March 2013 and Sierra Leone has just celebrated 11 years of peace following a horrific decade-long civil war that was fueled by blood diamonds. Vast amounts of donor money, US $2.5 billion from the United Nations alone, were spent restoring the peace and billions more have been spent consolidating it. While Sierra Leone remains one of the poorest countries in the world, recently it has been experiencing high GDP growth linked with iron ore and diamond mining. Since 2002, the country has undergone three largely peaceful elections. In 2011, at great expense and with great fanfare, it celebrated the 50th anniversary of its independence from Britain.

But where large foreign investors are moving in, the mood is not all that celebratory. This time it is not diamonds at the heart of the matter; it's something far more valuable to local people -- farmland. Nearly 25 percent of the country's arable land had already been signed over to foreign interests.

While food production has been steadily rising in the years since the war ended, Sierra Leone remains a low-income, food-deficit country that relies heavily on small family farms for its food production.

To read more

JJS: More people must understand, and demand, that the profit to be made from land (not the profit from one’s labor or capital) is a flow of wealth that belongs to all society to share among its members. It’s this commons ethic, and only this commons ethic, that will end the strife permanently Once harmony reigns, then all can prosper.


Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .

Also see:

Japan Turns Off Nukes, Africa Plants More Trees

Hunger Haunts Many in Africa While …

After Zimbabwe Took over Land, a Payoff?

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