Gender and Land Rights Database

Liberia

Prevailing systems of land tenure

 

The Land Rights Bill, 2014

Article 6: Rights in Lands other than Ownership

1. A person not having title to land may still have and enjoy the right to possess and/or use the land pursuant to (i) an agreement of lease; (ii) an easement; or (iii) a license. The Government may also grant a concession on or over Government Land and Public Land.

Article 7: Categories of Land Ownership

1. Every piece of land shall be classified as, and held under, one of four (4) distinct categories of land ownership in Liberia, as enumerated in Section (2) of this Article (7).

2. The Four (4) exclusive categories of Land ownership in Liberia are:

a) Public Land;

b) Government Land;

c) Customary Land;

 

The Land Commission Act of 2008

- Section 1.3.2 Public Land: Land which is publicly owned under the Constitution, statutes and common law of Liberia.

- Section 1.3.3: Private Land: Land which is owned or otherwise held under private rights by persons, communities or other corporate entities under the Constitution, statutes and common law of Liberia.

 

Public Lands

These refer to lands previously or currently held by the indigenous Liberians under traditional land tenure without ownership title. The chief administrator for lands in this category is the President who has the power to issue deeds for conveyance to individuals.

Procedure for acquiring Public Lands

The procedure is laid out in thePublic Lands Law - Title 34 - Liberian Code of Laws Revised

  • Obtain a certificate of acceptance to grant land from the tribal chiefs or city mayor, in the case of city land, attested by the Land Commissioner of the area;
  • The quantity of land applied for must be paid for and a flag receipt obtained from the Ministry of Finance;
  • The certificate and receipt are sent to the President of Liberia by the Land Commissioner, through the Office of the Superintendent of District Commissioner, requesting executive order to have the land surveyed;
  • The executive order is granted in favour of the applicant and a survey is conducted by a Licensed Surveyor, who prepares a public land deed in the name of the applicant;
  • The prepared deed, with copies of the executive order and receipt, is sent by the Land Commissioner to the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy for spot check and attestation by the Director of Surveys;
  • The Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy attaches a letter of clearance to the deed/documents and sends same to the President for signature. It is the prerogative of the President to sign whenever He/ She wants, following an exhibition of the deed in print media to determine whether there is any query;
  • The deed is exposed to public viewing at the door post of the Probate Court to clear all objections and later the deed is probated and sent for registration.

 

Private Lands

These refer to lands for which individuals or groups have acquired ownership titles, either by a deed under the Anglo-American system of land tenure or a land certificate under the land registration act of 1973. Owners of such lands reserve the right to dispose of any portion or the whole land and issue title(s) to individuals or groups. Deeds arising from such transactions are referred to as Warranty Deeds.

Procedure for acquiring Private Lands

The procedure is laid out in the Property Law - Title 29 - Liberian Code of Laws Revised

  • A person possessing private land expresses intention to sell. A buyer expresses intention to buy. The cost is agreed between both parties;
  • The help of a lawyer or surveyor is sought to examine the title deed;
  • A title search to establish title chain is carried out to determine security of title. The Lawyer or Surveyor conducts search (verification) of deed from either Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) Archives or Centre for National Document Records & Agency (CNDRA) depending on the date of last conveyance (date of deed).

 

National and local institutions enforcing land regulations

 

The National Land Commission

- Regulated by the Land Commission Act of 2008

- This Act defines the general mandate and purpose of the Commission which is to propose, advocate and coordinate reforms of land policy, laws and programs in Liberia. The Act specifies that the Commission has no adjudicatory or implementation role. Its objectives in policy and law reform are to promote:

  • Section 3.1.1: Equitable and productive access to the nation's land, both public and private;
  • Section 3.1.2: Security of tenure in land and the rule of law with respect to landholding and dealings in land;
  • Section 3.1.3: Effective land administration and management;
  • Section 3.1.4: Investment in and development of the nation's land resources.

- The mandate of the Commission extends to all land and land based natural resources, including both urban and rural land, private and public land, and land devoted to residential, agricultural, industrial, commercial, forestry, conservation and any other purposes.

- In particular, the Commission considers and issues recommendations on (inter alia) the following matters:

  • Rights in real property, and the extent of security in those rights;
  • The dichotomy between common law and customary land rights, and the reform and equitable harmonization and/or integration of those system, including their institutional dimensions;
  • Land administration, including land survey, probation, registration and valuation;
  • Land use planning, land use and management of land based natural resource for environmental, socioeconomic and other public purposes;
  • Investors' access to land and terms of access for both domestic and foreign investors, individual and corporate;
  • Equitable access to and security of tenure in land for women, youth, and other categories of persons who may have laboured under a disadvantage in this regard;
  • Prompt and fair resolution of disputes over land.

 

Land administration institutions and women quotas

The Ministry of Lands, Mines & Energy (MLME)

- It was established by an act of Legislature to administer all activities relative to land, mineral, water and energy resource exploration, coordination and development in the Republic of Liberia. 

- The Ministry formulates and implements policies and regulations in collaboration with other sector related agencies for the delivery of efficient services to the public from the land, mineral, water and energy sectors.

- It also delivers and administers Liberia's Mining Act to improve the investment climate for mineral development.

 

The Land Sector of the MLNE

Under Executive Law, Chapter 33.2, the Land Sector of the Ministry is charged with the responsibility of handling land disputes and formulating land policies, as well as producing topographic and cadastral maps at various scales. The sector comprises of one section, the Department of Lands, Survey and Cartography and four (3) bureaux:  Bureau of the Liberian Cartographic Service (LCS), the Bureau of Lands and Surveys and the Bureau of Land Information and Training.

 

Institutional reform is needed to clarify institutional roles and mandates and to improve coherence between central and county level authorities. There is also a strong need for capacity building and upgrading of all land records institutions. (9)

 

The Land Rights Bill, 2014 will bring some clarity and will create new institutions:

Part Three: Customary Land

1. The Residents of each Community with Customary Land or right to own Customary

Land shall, in respect of the use and management of the Customary Land, organize the

Community by undertaking necessary discussions and processes such as:

a. create and name a Community Land Development and Management Association (CLDMA);

b. Draft, discuss and adopt necessary by-laws for CLDMA that will include the requirements that a non-primary resident may have to satisfy in order to become a Community Member; and

c. Elect the CLDMA's governing body, which is inclusive of a fair number of women, men, youth and other representatives of all other stakeholder groups.

2. A community organized in accordance with Section (1) of this Article (35) shall automatically acquire and have legal personality and all the rights that accompany such legal personality, including the ability and right to enter into enforceable contracts, sue and be sued.

 

Funding provisions to guarantee women’s land transactions

For agricultural producers in rural Liberia, access to finance is extremely limited. Liberia lacks credit facilities, including in urban areas. Some microcredit institutions exist from which women benefit.  According to the World Bank, this suggests that improving credit services in rural areas could have a significant impact on business development. (6)

 

Other factors influencing gender differentiated land rights

- Unequal access to schooling is a crucial issue that is responsible for the high rate of illiteracy among girls and women. Literacy rate for women in rural areas is at 26%, compared to 61% for urban women, 60% and 86% for rural and urban men, respectively. The Ministries of Education and Gender and Development have launched adult literacy programmes targeted exclusively at women.

- Women’s limited access to justice, particularly in the Counties and rural areas (5).

 

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