The theme for the workshop was effective tenure governance for sustainable natural resource management and food security in Sierra Leone.
The workshop was organized by FAO and the Inter- Ministerial Task Force (comprising of Ministry of Land, Housing and Environment; the Ministry of Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of Local Government and Ministry of Justice) for stakeholders and development partners to review and reflect on the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forest (VGGT) and new National Land Policy (NLP) and to develop a road map to monitor their implementation across all the relevant sectors in Sierra Leone. About 200 participants drawn from government, parliament, civil society organizations, academia, private sector, traditional authorities, religious leaders, landowning families, the media and development partners, involved in the VGGT and the National Land Policy implementation participated in the workshop to foster dialogue to promote secure tenure rights and equitable access to land, fisheries and forests within the context of national food security. The event was funded by the Irish Aid and the German Government.
The Deputy FAO Representative in charge of programs, Mr. Joseph Brima who made introductory remarks recalled that the VGGT process started five years ago and FAO, Government and its partners had come a long way adding that the current chairperson of the VGGT Inter-Ministerial Task Force (IMTF), the Minister of Local Government, represented by the Deputy Minister, Mr. Philip Tondoneh would chair the workshop. He hoped that the discussions would inform participants about VGGT processes.
In his opening remarks the Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Mr. Philip Tondoneh expressed delight in having the participants as quest on the 5th Multi-stake holders Platform workshop. He noted that the responsible governance of tenure of land, Fisheries and Forest was high on the agenda of his ministry and government. He revealed that the key priorities enshrined in Sierra Leone’s fourth generation poverty reduction strategy paper for 2018–2023, the New Direction Agenda is to establish new approaches and procedures for managing our natural resources in ways that would encourage investment and rising productivity especially in agriculture to give local communities a greater stake in Sierra Leone’s economic future. It was therefore important to address tenure issues from a comprehensive approach including all stakeholders. The implementation of the VGGT in Sierra Leone therefore provided the opportunity.
In her welcome statement, the FAO Representative in Sierra Leone, Dr. Nyabenyi Tipo intimated that 20 countries had embraced the VGGT and that since 2014 when Sierra Leone started implementation, series of training programs had been organized for stakeholders and institutional frameworks established adding that the country now had forest reserves and that Sierra Leone had held meetings in the sidelines of global events on women’s customary land rights and other VGGT related issues.
She also expressed special gratitude to Irish Aid, UK and German Governments for their support to the VGGT and National Land Policy implementation and the traditional leaders for their patience to learn and participate in the various workshops as well as their commitment to ensuring that community and family lands were demarcated in the pilot phase of the Protecting Women’s Customary Land Rights project supported by Irish Aid.
The Deputy Director of Fisheries, Mr. Josephus Mamie, who represented the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, commended FAO and donors and informed all that natural resources are the bedrock of socio-economic development. He also observed that inadequate access to land sometimes leads to conflicts and further stated that Community Management Associations(CMAs) were formed in coastal communities to improve governance in the fishing sector also noting that the Fisheries Act and policy were aligned with the VGGT and would be implemented to the fullest if donor support was guaranteed.
He continued saying that the staff of the Fisheries Ministry were adequately informed about the VGGT and pointed out that women and girls should have equal access to land, fisheries and forests to ensure fairness, equitable peace and sustainable development.
Ms. Kadijatu Bangura of the Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Justice commended government for endorsing the VGGT initiative and donors for their support. She emphasized that the workshop was very important as it hosted about 200 delegates from various sectors nationwide involved in the VGGT and national Land Policy related work all in an effort to secure tenure rights.
She further underscored that the VGGT promotes responsible governance and called for the strengthening of efforts to reduce poverty noting population increase, urbanization and the absence of specific legislation on natural resource governance as challenges.
Ms.Kadijatu Bangura also highlighted that forest cover had declined in the country due to massive logging and increasing demand for farm land revealing that the VGGT would address food security.
Representing the Ambassador of Ireland, Ms. Mary O’Neill said that with the implementation of the VGGT, the government of Sierra Leone has achieved an important milestone and that her government is proud to support the national Land Policy and implementation of the VGGT in a collective effort to end hunger revealing that 60% of food is produced by women in Sierra Leone and pledged that her government would ensure that women have access to land concluding that the workshop is an opportunity for stakeholders to share experiences and chart the way forward.
The EU Team Leader for Rural Development , Mr. Thomas Opperer, noted that Sierra Leone is not alone in the journey as millions of people, particularly women, do not have land asserting that land governance is a global issue, that land is a commodity for investment affirming that the EU partnership with FAO is to get the best results and underlined that the new Land Policy is to address the mistakes of the past by getting an effective land tenure system, equitable access to land by all citizens as well as stimulate responsible investment.
The UNDP Resident Coordinator, Sunil Saigal said the VGGT is international best practice observing that as world population increases the demand for land and other natural resources becomes higher.
Officially declaring the workshop open, the Deputy Minister of Local Government, Mr. Philip Tondoneh, who chaired the opening session, encouraged all to participate actively in the technical sessions of the two days Multi-Stakeholders Platform Workshop meeting and make salient contributions as the outcome would map the way forward for the proper governance of land, fisheries and Forests which are of priority to government. He continued saying that government had given local communities the opportunity to manage their resources and assured that his Ministry was working with other MDAs to implement the VGGT in the country as that would guarantee national food security and resilience to climate change.
The Deputy Minister of Local Government also called for the harmonization of the various land laws and noted that the fisheries sector was not properly managed. He reiterated the need for government to take ownership of the processes for the purpose of sustainability.
Participatory and interactive workshop methodologies were used while the interactive sessions included presentations, moderated panel discussions, group work and questions, comments and answer time.
Thematic Presentations included: Perspectives on the Current Status on the VGGT implementation in Sierra Leone; Effective Tenure Governance for Sustainable Natural Resource Management; and Food Security in Sierra Leone; The Implementation of the National Land Policy and the VGGT in Sierra Leone- Practical Examples from Civil Society; The Roles of the Media and Religious Leaders in Strengthening effective Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security; The Role of Traditional Authorities in Protecting Land Tenure Rights; the Role of Academia in Strengthening Effective Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security New Practical Approaches on Application of Principles of Responsible Tenure Governance in Sierra Leone; Promoting Responsible Land-based Investments in Agriculture.
Recommendations presented to the Deputy Minister of Local Government, participants reiterated the need to review the land policies, to establish freehold in rural areas, government to define city, town and village, the enforcement of land tenure rights, large-scale land investments not being more than 5,000 hectares, prohibiting subletting of lands by investors, buffer zones between communities and large-scale land investments and that investors must provide collateral before the commencement of projects.
Recommendations were also made that all aspects of land should be gender sensitive; ‘IF’ clauses referring to women to be expunged from the Land Policy; government to support and own the land reform process, that there was need to scale-up aquaculture, review overlapping policies and harmonize them, need for increased investments in the sector, government to buy trawlers, increase taxes and fines for foreign vessels, secure grants from development partners and increase budgetary support to the Fisheries sector.
With regards the management of Forests, delegates also resolved the need to review and finalize the Forestry Acts, control commercial forests, train guards to mann forests, improve on monitoring and evaluation, community engagements in all processes, enforce laws at all levels, decentralize forestry activities in various communities, make VGGT Committees more pro-active and harmonize forestry laws for all MDAs; the need for proper coordination of activities and regular meetings; establishment of nurseries in all chiefdoms, provision of livelihood support, review of forest concessions, monitoring of flora and fauna at the airport, scale-up community participation, the Ministry of Forestry to be named, Ministry of Forestry and the Environment to include EPA and NPPA; inclusion of forestry in school curriculum and land brokers to take an insurance bond.
On behalf of Parliament, Hon. Quinton Salia Konneh, Chairman of the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Lands, expressed his delight to have been part of the process and underscored that the focus was to be placed on sustainability of the VGGT/actions and how best to move the processes forward since the Multi-stakeholder platform was held only once a year . He further reiterated the issue of giving voice and space to women in the natural resource sector.
The Resident Minister, North/West said she learnt a lot during the workshop but observed that delegates did not mention the dispute between farmers and cattle-rearers particularly in the North of the country which she highlighted as very topical issue.
The draft communiqué of the 5th Multi-stakeholders platform was read and presented to the Deputy Minister of Local Government by a civil society delegate from Bo District, Ms. Rassie Bah.
In closing the 2018 Multi-stakeholders’ Platform, the FAO Representative in Sierra Leone, Dr. Nyabenyi Tipo said she was delighted that the Deputy Minister of Local Government has promised that he would share the communiqué with his colleague Ministers which signals genuine commitment. She furthered that the meeting was a powerful forum of various stakeholders; that the communiqué was none-partisan and the she looks forward to see the implementation of the recommendations made there- in concluding that she appreciated the commitment of all delegates and wished them a safe trip to their respective destinations.