A decade after the end of the Liberian Civil War, Liberia is focused on rebuilding its infrastructure and economy. Land law and policy reforms are integral to this process.

The country's land-tenure system reflects a long-standing division between the urban elite and rural indigenous populations. Urban land rights are governed by a Western statutory system. Rural communities-which make up 85 percent of the country's population and largely practice subsistence agriculture-use their own customary systems. However, most customary land is not titled, and by law the state owns all land not secured by a deed. The government recognizes rural people's rights to use this land, but not to own it.

Liberia

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Ali Kaba, Program Director for the Community Land Protection Programme, Sustainable Development Institute, Liberia

Ali Kaba, Program Director for the Community Land Protection Programme, Sustainable Development Institute, Liberia


Ali Kaba writes about Land Rights for Women in Liberia. 

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Improving Liberia's land tenure system

Improving Liberia's land tenure system is critical for poor urban and rural populations, whose rights to land and natural resources are tenuous. Indeed, the government has allocated an estimated 73% of land to concessions for logging, mining, and large-scale agriculture, often resulting in the displacement of communities or restriction of their livelihoods. People living in informal urban settlements are also vulnerable to eviction, and some settlements have been bulldozed. Throughout the country, women's rights to land and resources are particularly vulnerable. Such challenges hinder development initiatives and contribute to poverty.

But land policy in Liberia is changing. A Land Commission established in 2009 is guiding the development of reforms that would promote equitable access to land and resources, secure tenure, investment, and development. The Commission's Draft Land Policy Statement (2012) recommends the formal recognition of land held under customary tenure which is an important step toward securing land rights for rural people. The government has also reformed governance of the forestry sector, and is working on a new Urban Land Policy that would address property rights in informal urban settlements. The government, international partners, and civil society organizations are all paying increased attention to critical issues of land and natural resource rights.

Liberia infographic

Total population 4,128,572
Rural population / rural poverty rate 2,139,335.2/67.7%
Share of women in agriculture 48.2%
Urban population / urban poverty rate 1,989,236/55.1%
Internally displaced People 13,000
Total land area / Agricultural land as % of total 96,320/27.3%
Protected areas (as % of total land) 1.77%
Forested land (as % of total) 44.6%
Annual deforestation rate 0.61%
Land rights and access rating N/A
Time required to register property (days) N/A
Women's ownership rights N/A
Large-scale land holdings 662,000
GDP per capita (current USD) 374.3
Agriculture as % of GDP 53.1%
Natural resource income as % of GDP 11%
Major natural resources Iron ore, timber, diamonds, gold, hydropower
Tourism as share of GDP N/A

Sources