Establishing a Land Administration System in Liberia
Liberia is at a critical stage in its peace building and development process, given the multiple challenges the country is facing. One of the key challenges is insecure tenure and the absence of a functioning land administration system. Secure tenure is a prerequisite for increased productivity, dispute resolution, strengthened business environment, women’s empowerment, and revenue generation. The Government of Liberia has recognized the importance of secure tenure and has established the Liberia Land Authority (LLA) in 2016 and passed the Land Rights Act (LRA) in 2018. Since 2018, the World Bank is funding the Liberia Land Administration Project (LLAP), which seeks to build the LLA’s institutional capacity and establish a land administration system. Capacity constraints are amongst the key challenges of the LLA to fulfill its mandate, to implement the LRA, and to implement the activities under the LLAP. To assist the LLA with tackling these challenges, the World Bank’s South-South Facility has funded a knowledge exchange with Rwanda through a study tour as well as a 3-day workshop on the land administration reform experiences in Ghana.
Liberia faces unique land tenure challenges mainly related to its specific historical and political context. Liberia was founded by former slaves coming from the United States who attempted to create a Western statutory system of land ownership. The majority of the rural population however use customary systems, which are based on community or collective ownership of discrete territories. Amongst the key concerns is that more than 50 percent of the country is covered by land concessions, which often overlap with other private and customary rights. This may be a significant driver for new rounds of conflict. Also, while Liberia’s statutory laws protect women’s land rights, they often are not able to exercise their rights due to social norms related to marriage and other family relationships. In global comparison, Liberia ranks place 174 out of 190 countries in the 2019 Doing Business report with regard to registering property. The fragile land tenure situation in Liberia is made more insecure by contradictory natural resource policies, an unclear legal framework and low professional and technical capacity in core land administration and land management disciplines such as customary land rights management, land use planning, and land dispute resolution. Currently, there is no cadaster and no effective and reliable land information system in Liberia and capacities in this area are low. While the LLA is receiving financial and technical support through the LLAP, the project is LLA’s first World Bank-funded project and therefore capacities with regard to implementing such a project are low.
The proposed solution was to facilitate knowledge exchanges with other African countries that have made significant progress with regard to similar challenges. First, Rwanda was selected as a knowledge provider as Rwanda has implemented a land tenure regularization program that resulted in the systematic registration of all land in the country. Land dispute resolution was part of the process and local mediation committees (‘Abunzi’) play an important role to resolve land related disputes. Further, the country’s land use planning system is well advanced in rural as well as in urban areas. The second knowledge provider was Ghana. The establishment of customary land secretariats and land use planning systems as well as the establishment of a land information system in Ghana were identified as important areas for knowledge exchange. Also, Ghana’s land administration reforms were funded by the World Bank and this experience was identified as highly relevant for the LLA to implement the LLAP.
The knowledge from Rwanda was shared through a study tour of key LLA staff. Workshops with different government departments were organized, focusing on land dispute resolution, systematic land registration, land use planning, and land information systems. The study tour included field trips to allow the participants to witness the implementation of land administration reforms at the local level.
The knowledge exchange with Ghana was organized through a 3-day workshop in Monrovia, Liberia, which allowed LLA staff to learn from the Ghanaian experience. The workshop included presentations from staff in the Ghanaian Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources as well as staff from the WB-funded Ghana Land Administration Project. The workshop allowed for open discussions and side meetings on customary land rights management, land use planning, land information systems, and management of a WB-funded project.
The LLA prepared reports for the study tour and workshop. Based on the reports, LLA identified numerous lessons learned. The below represents an extract of key lessons learned:
- Regulations and guidelines for the registration and titling of lands need to be developed in close collaboration with communities. Shortly after the knowledge exchange, LLA included the development of regulations on the conduct of Confirmatory Surveys to identify, inventory, map, probate and register the Customary Land claims of communities under the LLAP.
- Field trials/pilots are important to identify the best approach to systematic land registration. As a result of the knowledge exchange the LLA expressed the wish to implement a holistic land registration pilot for systematic registration of customary land as required by the LRA. Based on this request the World Bank is in discussions with the LLA to add this activity under the LLAP. One of the components of the LLAP calls for different pilots regarding land administration but the exact scope was not defined. The study tours helped to concretize the proposed pilots.
- Systematic registration requires a fit-for-purpose approach, allowing for the use of general boundaries instead of costly and time-consuming surveying at centimeter accuracy. Also, the use of tablets or smartphones for demarcation was observed and is considered now in Liberia as well. Follow up discussions on this approach and potentially required legal reforms are being held within LLA’s Land Administration Department, which will be reflected in the pilot referenced above.
- Advantages and disadvantages of a title- vs. a deeds-based registry system were discussed and reactivated a discussion within LLA, which started under the former Liberia Land Commission. A decision on this question is an intermediate results indicator under the LLAP and the experience gained through the knowledge exchange will inform this ongoing discussion.
- Based on the experience with local mediation committees in Rwanda, LLA identified that there is a compelling need for the LLA to accelerate efforts in completing of the Alternative Land Resolution legislation, working in collaboration with the Law Reform Commission of Liberia.
- As compared to the observed experiences, Liberia’s land use planning is hindered by a lack of inter-ministerial coordination and a general lack of experience with land use planning. These findings were reflected in a proposal submitted by LLA’s Land Use & Management Department for the inclusion of land use planning related activities under LLAP.
- Based on the study tour discussions, LLA included the development of a National Zoning Policy under the LLAP, following the lessons learned from the study tour, which highlighted the need for extensive consultations with citizens and stakeholders during this process.
- Regarding the implementation of World Bank funded projects, the Ghana workshop provided important lessons learned such as clarification of reporting, linkages and coordination arrangements; need for transparency and team work; and use of workshops to prepare work plans, procurement plans and review of reports. Many of these lessons learned will be included in an ongoing review and revision of the LLAP Project Implementation Manual.
Beneficiaries / Participants
The Liberian delegation visiting Rwanda was comprised of 8 LLA staff, namely three LLA Commissioners (for Land Administration; Land Use & Management; and Policy & Planning); LLA’s Executive Director; the LLAP PIU Project Coordinator; LLA’s Project Director; and two technical staff from the Land Administration and the Land Use & Management Departments.
The training on the Ghanaian experience in Liberia was attended by 39 LLA staff from all LLA departments (Land Administration; Land Use & Management; Policy & Planning; Administrative and Customer Services) as well as 5 LLAP PIU staff. The participants were comprised of all four Commissioners (including the acting Chairperson); four Technical Directors; the Executive Director; and 25 technical staff.
World Bank Contribution
A World Bank task team led by Linus Pott (Land Administration Specialist), with support from Victoria Stanley (Senior Land Administration Specialist) and Gabriela Itzel Nunez (Consultant) facilitated the study tour to Rwanda and organized the Ghana workshop, both of which were funded by a grant ($25,000) from the South-South Facility. The World Bank-financed Liberia Land Administration Project funded the participation of additional LLA staff for the Rwanda study tour. The World Bank’s Task Team Leader for the LLA participated in the Rwanda study tour (through another funding source) to provide additional technical input.
LLA will continue to exchange with its peers from Ghana and Rwanda. Study tour reports were prepared by LLA and shared with the respective knowledge providers. The World Bank agreed to provide access to its facilities for follow-up videoconferences as needed. Generally, the option of organizing videoconferences with other knowledge providers from within and outside the region is being considered.
Future discussions between LLA and the knowledge providers will be conducted during regional conferences and international conferences (such as the Conference on Land Policy in Africa or the World Bank’s Annual Conference on Land & Poverty). LLAP funds can potentially be utilized for this purpose.
Management staff and technical officers from the LLA highly appreciated the knowledge exchanges with Rwanda and Ghana. Specifically, LLA staff appreciated the opportunity to witness the most prominent example of successful first-time registration in Rwanda and the experiences from a similar WB-funded land administration project in Ghana.
Hon. Ellen Pratt, LLA Commissioner for Land Use & Management, summarized the study tour to Rwanda as follows:
“The study tour to Rwanda was very inspirational but also informative. Why? Because we saw firsthand an example of a post-conflict country, with many of the same scenarios and characteristics as Liberia. Rwanda bounced back as a country with very clear objectives of how they wanted their country to grow and specifically how they wanted land reform to be achieved within a feasible timeline. So, what I took from Rwanda was that we need to have a clear vision, we need to have a clear plan, and we need to be willing to make sacrifices and hard choices. Rwanda did not do business as usual because they needed a paradigm shift of the way they were operating, and I think these are very pertinent lessons that Liberia can learn as we look at a serious change in our land reform agenda.”
With regard to the Ghana workshop, Julius Kamara, Policy Analyst at LLA’s Policy & Planning Department stated:
“I participated in the 3-day knowledge exchange / training session with the experts from Ghana. The training was very successful, and it contributed to LLA’s knowledge on raising awareness, decentralization, and building the rightful regulations to implement the new Land Rights Law to give everybody equal access to land.”
The knowledge gained was documented in a study tour and workshop report prepared by LLA as well as a report prepared by the trainers of the Ghana workshop. The reports were shared within LLA to ensure that knowledge gained is available to all staff, including those who could not participate in the exchange.
New knowledge on systematic registration of customary land
New knowledge was gained on systematic registration of customary land rights. The study tour to Rwanda demonstrated the need for political will, participatory development of laws and policy, piloting to test different approaches, inclusion of local communities in carrying out the activities, rigorous awareness raising to ensure participation of communities and subsequent registration of transactions, necessity to employ fit-for-purpose technologies and surveying standards, and the importance of capacity building at all levels. The fundamentals of establishing a geodetic network and Continuously Operating Reference Stations (CORS) were discussed as well. The importance of ensuring that international companies installing CORS stations transfer knowledge to the respective counterparts was highlighted as being key for success in Rwanda. Further, the complexity, duration, and cost implications of developing a digital Land Information System were discussed. The Rwanda and Ghana experiences showed that such systems require detailed planning, constant upgrading, and major financial resources. The Liberian delegation observed the application of such a system at the central and local levels in Rwanda and learned about different options for providing user access to such a system, e.g. through an intranet or web-based solution. Also, the participants learned about the need for ensuring maintenance and sustainability of a Land Information System as all subsequent land transactions need to be registered in the system to avoid that the information becomes outdated. Incentives for registering land transactions and related benefits must be clearly communicated to landowners. Further, accessibility of services must be ensured and the example of the establishment of Customary Land Secretariats in Ghana was discussed as a model, which resonates with provisions under the LRA, calling for Community Land Development and Management Committees. Also, the use of mobile buses offering land related services in Rwanda was witnessed during a ‘land week’ campaign, which brings services to the citizens.
New knowledge on land use planning
On land use planning, the LLA learned that participation of landowners and land users is key to ensure the acceptance of land use plans. Building the capacity of central and local level stakeholders involved in land use planning is fundamental for ensuring successful participatory processes. Also, the importance of developing land use plans at different levels and ensuring their linkages was highlighted. Furthermore, the inter-ministerial and multi-stakeholder nature of land use planning was emphasized, which requires adequate communication channels and political will. The knowledge exchange also highlighted the importance of enforcement of developed land use plans, which again requires political will but also financial and human resources. Hence, capacity building in the land use planning sector was identified as a priority. The piloting of different approaches in Liberia was discussed as a potential way forward.
New knowledge on land dispute resolution
New knowledge was gained on land dispute resolution. Specifically, accessible and affordable approaches, including alternative dispute resolution, were highlighted. The use of traditional dispute resolution committees such as the ‘Abunzi’ in Rwanda were identified a suitable option. However, capacities of such voluntary committees need to be strengthened. Incentives such as health insurance and transport means were identified as key to ensuring the functioning of such systems. The need for monitoring of dispute resolution was discussed and proper monitoring systems identified as key for ensuring effectiveness and transparency. All of the above depends on respective policies and legislation, which were highlighted as key to provide citizens with legal justice related to land. However, continuous awareness raising, and sensitization are fundamental to ensure that women have access to land dispute resolution committees and are represented on such committees to be part of decision-making processes.
New knowledge on management of World Bank-funded projects
Regarding the management of World Bank-funded projects, a diverse set of knowledge was obtained from the experiences of Ghana. The coordination with other development partner-funded projects was highlighted to avoid duplication of efforts. Further, the need for internal coordination and clearly defined communication flows was highlighted. In addition, the approach of using workshops for the development of work plans, procurement plans, and review of project documents was recommended. The general need for all relevant staff to be briefed on project objectives and the respective roles and responsibilities of staff was identified as fundamental. Specifically, the collaboration between the LLA and the Project Implementation Unit (PIU) was discussed, and it was highlighted that the two should not be seen as separate entities as the LLAP is a Government project. The issue of hiring of external consultants for tasks under the LLAP was subject of discussion and the Ghanaian experts advised that consultants are not supposed to replace existing capacity but build LLA’s capacity.
During both knowledge exchanges, it was agreed that LLA will continue to exchange experiences with the knowledge providers. Both knowledge provider counterparts have agreed to provide follow up input as needed. This could be facilitated by the World Bank’s videoconferencing systems in each of the countries. Further exchanges during regional and international land conferences will be organized to maintain the new partnerships. The LLA reports were shared with the knowledge providers to ensure a continuous dialogue between the respective institutions.
REVISION OF ACTIVITIES UNDER THE LIBERIA LAND ADMINISTRATION PROJECT
The knowledge exchange helped LLA to reframe existing activities and include new activities under the LLAP. This entails for example the inclusion of a pilot for systematic registration of customary land; the development of regulations regarding customary land registration; and development of a National Zoning Policy. These activities were not part of the LLAP prior to the knowledge exchanges and the study tour and the workshop have led to conversations between the LLA and the World Bank to inform these new activities. Further activities might be included under the LLAP based on subsequent discussions, e.g. related to communication and awareness raising; fit-for-purpose surveying technologies; or the discussion on a deeds-versus a title-based registry system.
The activities were led by the World Bank in close collaboration with the LLA. The participation of additional LLA staff in the study tour and workshop was facilitated through providing additional LLAP funds.
The Rwanda Cooperation Initiative has the mandate to facilitate study tours and facilitated contacts with different Government departments. The partners in Rwanda included the Rwanda Land Management and Use Authority (under the Ministry of Natural Resources) and its different departments at the central and local level; the Secretariat in charge of coordinating activities of Mediation (under the Ministry of Justice); and the City of Kigali.
The two trainers from Ghana were the Project Coordinator of the Ghana Land Administration Project from the Ghana Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources and a Sr. Planning Officer from the Ghana Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources who was also involved in the Ghana Land Administration Projects.
News and website articles :
- “LLA Holds Workshop on Land Administration Reforms and Systems”
- “Liberia Land Authority Visits Rwanda On Land Related Matters”
Knowledge providers and recipients :
- Liberia Land Authority
- Ghana Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources
- Rwanda Land Management and Use Authority
Related World Bank-funded projects:
- Liberia Land Administration Project (P162893)
- Ghana Land Administration Project 1 (P071157)
- Ghana Land Administration Project 2 (P120636)
Story Author: Linus Pott