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Gender and Land Rights Database

Liberia

In 2014, the total population was estimated at 4.397 million, of which 49.6 percent were women. Of the total population, 50.7 percent lived in rural areas (1). In 2014, the population density was estimated at 46 people per square kilometre (1).

In 2014, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was USD 2.027 billion, while the per capita GDP was USD 841, with an annual average growth rate of -1.9 percent (1). In 2002, agriculture accounted for the largest GDP share with a contribution of 76.9 percent of the GDP, services accounted for 17.7 percent and the industry accounted for 5.4 percent of the GDP. (10)

With a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.434 in 2014, the country ranks 175 out of 186 countries measured (2). In 2014 83.76 percent of the total population lived below the USD 1.25 per day poverty line (2). Data from 2015 indicates that 31.9 % of the population was undernourished (3). In 2012 life expectancy at birth was estimated at 61.5 years for women and 59.6 years for men (1). In 2014 the literacy rate out of total population was 42.9 percent (2). The last available gender-disaggregated rates date back to 2007 when 61 percent for men were literate as opposed to only 27 percent of women. (1)

In 2010 the total female share of the economically active population in agriculture was 44.5 percent (4). Women are major players in the agriculture sector as they are responsible for household food security, wood and water collection, transport and marketing activities, and family care. The civil war has increased the number of female headed households and single parent families (5). The key staple crops in Liberia include rice and cassava. According to a World Bank study, 78 percent of female-headed households grow rice compared with 69 percent of male-headed households.  Similarly, cassava is grown by 62 percent of female-headed households. (6)

Land tenure security is a burning issue in Liberia and the lack of title deed places women in more vulnerable positions when faced with an economic crisis, family conflict, marital breakdown or widowhood. (5)

Liberia has a plural system of land tenure derived from a combination of statutory common law – that includes statutes and case law – and a web of customary laws derived from local lineage-based systems of governance. The statutory tenure system was introduced in the early 1800s by the American Colonization Society (ACS), which purchased land along the coast of Liberia from indigenous African chiefs. In the 1820s, freed slaves came from the United States to settle. Under the Public Lands Law, a settler was allotted 10 acres of farmland, 25 acres for married couples, or a town plot, which they held in fee simple, giving them permanent, and fully transferable rights. (11).

Sources: numbers in brackets (*) refer to sources displayed in the Bibliography