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The Signed Land Rights Act of Liberia: Giving Rural Communities Power Over Their Lands

On September 19, 2018, the President of the Republic of Liberia, President George Weah signed the Land Rights Act which gives power to over millions of rural Liberians through the collective efforts of Civil Society Organizations and international organizations. This land rights act guarantees by law that rural Liberians are recognized and protected. There are important safeguards for women in the Land Rights Act that enable them to have ownership over lands, be involved with and make decisions on land matters, as well as having equal right with spouse on lands that they acquire.

The Act is a major step forward for the land rights of all Liberians, and particularly for those who reside in rural areas and on community land. For more than 170 years, Liberia has treated all lands that are not privately held as belonging to the government. This includes community lands, where land tenure is “shared” among members of a community, but ownership hasn’t been legally recognized by the government.

This has led to the widespread practice of granting concessions on community lands, often without consulting the people who have occupied the land. As a result, many communities were displaced from land they had occupied for hundreds of years – a recipe for conflict that contributed to two civil wars from 1989-2003 that killed hundreds of thousands of Liberians.