Multi-Stakeholder Platform Offers Solution for Land Rights in Sierra Leone

The 5th National Multi-Stakeholder Platform on the New Land Policy in Sierra Leone was held in Freetown in October. During the event, journalists, policy makers, NGOs, farmers and other representatives active in agriculture came to discuss the details of the new land policy in a democratic and transparent manner.

Participants of the multi-stakeholder process

Solidaridad was asked to apply and test the Analytical Framework for Due Diligence in Responsible Land-Based Agricultural Investments in the development of a large-scale oil palm plantation planned by Natural Habitats Sierra Leone. This project is based in the Makpele Chiefdom, Pujehun District with a view to protect the land rights, livelihoods and food security of vulnerable people within the large-scale land concession, and promote responsible business.

Before the MSP – Conflicts Over Land in Makpele Chiefdom

In 2016, Solidaridad intervened in the land conflicts of the Makpele Chiefdom, upon the request of Natural Habitats Sierra Leone, within the Land Enhancing Governance for Economic Development (LEGEND) programme.

This programme was initiated by Natural Habitats Sierra Leone. They lease land from land-owning families on which they grow organic and sustainable oil palms. “We wanted to make sure that our company was doing land business in accordance with the recommendation of the National Land Policy (NLP), our own land use policy and international standards,” said Alie Bao, the community relations manager from Natural Habitats Sierra Leone.

At the time, they had inherited a lease that covered the entire chiefdom, and this resulted in conflict with landowners in the chiefdom. When Solidaridad was asked to test the analytical framework, it became clear that there were certain stakeholders, each with their own specific grievances. Some of these concerns were addressed in the existing Development and Grievance Committee, but this platform was not extensive enough to cover all the issues. Thus, the local multi-stakeholder platform was created, following the format of the national national multi-stakeholder platform with the aim of making it inclusive, transparent and an opportunity to educate all stakeholders on land rights and governance.

New Lease – New Attitudes

One concrete success of the platform is the role it played in the creation of a new lease between Natural Habitats Sierra Leone and the landowning families in Mapkele Chiefdom. The original 30,700 hectares have been reduced to 3,302 hectares, and only to leasing families who are fully aware of their rights. During the platform, all stakeholders could share their concerns with the current lease, and all partners took these concerns seriously. In other words, the platform fostered transparency in the land acquisition process.

“Our ideas have changed,” said Sidie Mansaray of MAKLOUA, who refused the original lease. “If the agreement is good, we will lease our land.”

This was a major accomplishment that the tensions between MILA and MAKLOUA have been reduced. “We used to be something like enemies, but now we all laugh and chat together,” said MILA chairman Edmond Konneh.

The Paramount Chief of Mapkele Chiefdom Saffa Monya Tamu is happy with the results. “Now it is clear how investors can acquire land. Which is important, because our virgin lands can attract investors, who can be our partners in development. We should be open to discussion.” The multi-stakeholder platform is gaining interest from other chiefdoms dealing with land governance issues.

Learn more about the people behind the platform.