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December 2006

Announcement of a publication

Land tenure, food security and investment in postwar Sierra Leone

Livelihood Support Programme Working Paper 22


This paper represents part of an area of work on land tenure in post-conflict situations. An earlier LSP paper explored post-conflict land tenure in the context of sustainable livelihoods (LSP Working Paper 18: “Post-conflict land tenure: using a sustainable livelihoods approach”.) The work is complemented by the FAO Land Tenure Studies 8 “Access to rural land and land administration after violent conflicts”.

Postwar Sierra Leone presents a number of challenges in reconstruction and development. Among these is significant food insecurity and investment in the rural areas, which is especially difficult for subsistence producers who are still recovering from the effects of the war. Attaining food security is a presidential priority, and the Ministry of Agriculture has set a goal for hunger eradication by 2007. At the same time the UN moves forward with designating food security as a human right, and this has been embraced by the Government of Sierra Leone. The prospects for food security and investment in the rural areas appear to be good. The country contains abundant fertile land, a predictable seasonality, and significant experience with the production of a variety of food and cash crops. Importantly, the country possesses 4 million hectares of prime farm land of significant arable potential that remain uncultivated after the war, even with a successful peace process that has secured the countryside, sought to address governance issues, and moved forward with development agendas; all in the context of considerable rural unemployment. Fortunately, landmines so prevalent in other conflicts on the continent are not a problem in Sierra Leone.

With such apparently favorable conditions in the rural areas, an important question is, why does so much arable land remain uncultivated? One suspicion is that there may be land tenure issues in rural Sierra Leone that are acting to keep lands out of production and away from investment. The purpose of this study is to understand the land tenure story in postwar Sierra Leone, and how it intersects with food security, and small and large-scale investment in the country.

The study examines: 1) rural social dynamics and land tenure; 2) tenure security and land access; 3) the labour problem; 4) mechanization issues for agriculture; 5) loans and land as collateral; 6) leasing and partnerships, the options for investment; 7) the problem with changing to freehold; 8) legislative reform; and, 9) themes from Mozambique’s land policy reform experience. Recommendations are then suggested, followed by areas for future research.

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