It is a struggle that communities across the world face; stopping companies from grabbing their lands, forcing them to relocate and destroying their lands.
But in Sierra Leone, the rules are about to change drastically.
Sierra Leone’s parliament has passed two new laws that will help boost the rights of rural landowners and women against land grabs by big mining and agribusiness firms.
The Customary Land Rights Act and the Land Commission Act, both enacted in August, empower local landowners to negotiate the value of their land. Companies operating in Sierra Leone will have to obtain the consent of local communities before starting mining, industrial or farming activities. Local land owners will also be able to veto any projects and the Sierra Leone government will have to help pay for any legal fees that the local communities incur in negotiations.
Trócaire partner, Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD), who advocated for and worked on the Bill, hailed the new laws as “globally unprecedented”.
“Although they are only first steps in a long road to organise and modernise Sierra Leone’s land governance sector, the two laws offer distinct benefits. The 2022 National Land Commission Act establishes a land commission that will function as an operational arm of the Ministry of Land, as well as several decentralised level structures. It takes an inclusive, gender-sensitive and participatory approach. As a result of this law, all lands will be titled and registered through a state-run real-time information and cadastral system.”
“The 2022 Customary Land Rights Act is aimed at protecting customary land rights, organising and harmonising customary land governance in the provinces. To address the problem of gender-based discrimination, it establishes women’s right to own and use family land on an equal footing with their male relatives.”