Is Govt really serious about agriculture?

first_imgDear Editor,President David Granger, according to an October 12 Newsroom report, told an activity on the occasion of National Tree Planting day on October 11 that his Government would be “…using petroleum revenues to modernise the agriculture sector”. This is now the latest promise regarding the use of our finite oil proceeds towards national development. Apart from that undertaking, the President has promised free education from nursery to university. Also, his Finance Minister, according to an October 13, Demerara Waves report, said that “…the governing coalition’s general election campaign will not be pegged on the immediate benefits of oil money next year, but will list a number of tax concessions leading up to 2025 as more oil revenues pour in”. Of course, some monies, the Government has said, will have to be deposited into the Natural Resources Fund (NRF) for future generations. And then, soon, we may hear about other plans for oil monies such as infrastructure development. Bearing all that in mind, we wonder whether we are not being led into wonderland. It also brings into question the credibility and sincerity of the Government’s statements and how much weight could be put into believing what is being said.But on the issue of agriculture specifically, during the President’s time at the wicket, this important, mainstay sector of the economy has been badly mishandled and mismanaged. The functioning of the Ministry of Agriculture has been, in our view, far from stellar. Though now staffed by two (2) Ministers, one responsible for rural affairs and the other axiomatically having responsibility, probably, for urban agriculture, if this really exists, the sector has been facing the most trying of times. As we now observe Agriculture Month, the celebrations of this important month have, from our perspective, taken on more pageantry than substance though many issues require attention.In the more recent of times, we have seen the implementation of clearly unsuitable and ill-advised policies which have not been helpful to the sector and those who depend on it for a livelihood. Of course, it is not to say they have been repercussions, as we can see from the undermentioned table:- Source: Budget 2019We must point out that the 2019 figure was an estimate at the time of preparation of the Budget. Here we must note that the 2019 Mid-Year report indicated, not unexpectedly, that “[i]n the first half of 2019, the Agriculture, Fishing and Forestry sector is estimated to have contracted by 0.3 per cent, compared to growth of 4.9 per cent for the 2018 half-year”. It seems to us that the estimate will not be realised but time will ultimately tell.So now we have the President coming to tell us his Government will use oil revenues, among other things, to bolster the sector. This, given the importance of the sector, would be a welcome plus. But the reality is that the policies implemented by the Granger Administration during its stint in office, thus far, has served to weaken the sector and place it in the state it finds itself in nowadays. Can we really take at face value what the President is saying?From the report we saw, the President told his arranged audience “…notwithstanding the advances made over the past four years, [he] recognises the need to catalyse the agro-industrial sector”. What are these advances he is speaking of? In his tenure as President, the abovementioned data speaks for itself. Contrary to the President’s point-of-view, there has been retrogression not progression in the sector, like in other areas of national life.We need not remind about the destruction of the sugar industry, which has seen some 7000 workers put on the breadline as the Government adamantly pressed on, in a foolhardy manner, to shutter sugar estates. The repercussions have begun to show themselves. Already, the NIS is complaining about the loss of contributions and the exchange rate has slid markedly. Then there is the heartrending situation in the communities where many are experiencing the most difficult time of their lives. We have heard the stories of children not being able to go to school, or families not having sufficient food. Today, thousands are struggling while the fat cats sit in their ivory towers enjoying the fancifulness of life.We have also seen the incomprehensible hiking of land rental and drainage and irrigation charges. Those increases, according to reports, are several times more than what was previously charged. They are a major disincentive to production and whittle away the already small margins of our farmers. We have seen too, the attack on farmers through the arbitrary withdrawal of land leases. While we are also aware that the courts have brought justice to some of those affected, it is a costly and colossal waste of time. It, at the same time, takes away from those farmers, their attention in the tasks of tilling and cultivating the land.The President, according to the Ministry of the Presidency’s statement, is quoted to say “[a]gro-processing could add value to primary products and help to make the country more prosperous”. Indeed, it is hard to disagree with the President. But it is the same President, under whose leadership agricultural implements became taxable which has served to hike the cost of production. It is not a surprise, but saddening to know, that between December 2014 and June 2019, the cost of food has risen by nearly 19 per cent.So while the President rightly emphasises that agriculture can take us along the road to prosperity, his and his Government’s actions, in all fairness, have not demonstrated that commitment. We saw, in a report titled “Budget 2019: A disturbing trend and vision for Guyana’s future” produced by the Guyana Budget and Policy Institute (GBPI), that in the 2019 Budget “[f]unding for the agriculture sector was cut by more than 29 per cent…”. That report went on to point out that “[s]tarving agriculture of much-needed investment is an indication that the sector and the wellbeing of farmers are not a priority of the Government. This is in direct contrast to its multiple campaign promises of a better life for farmers and agriculture workers”.Today, according to the most recently available Bureau of Statistics Labour Survey report, employment in the sector has fallen from 18.9 per cent of the employed population at the last quarter of 2017 to 17.5 per cent during the last quarter of 2018. Notwithstanding the decline, the sector remains the country’s largest employer. Undoubtedly, focused attention is required to nurture and develop the industry. As the President correctly told his audience “[w]hen value is added to primary production, its export value is increased, exports are stimulated and foreign exchange and employment are generated”. But while the President is apparently not short on words, he is very much lacking in actions as we have seen with sad consequences.Yours faithfully,Seepaul NarineGeneral SecretaryGAWU Agriculture as % of GDP19.55%19.40%16.86%16.57%15.71%16.04%center_img Year201420152016201720182019last_img read more


Barrolle, Oilers Swell Chances in Basketball Championship

first_imgMighty Barrolle, on Wednesday increases their chances for winning the 2014 Basketball Championship, when she thumped Barnersville Celtic, 71-62 points, reports Leroy M. Sonpon, lll.The Rollers, in the first quarter, bowed to Barnersville Celtics 19-15 points, but led the remaining three quarters; 33-30, 47-35 and 71-62 points.Wednesday’s game was rescheduled from Saturday, May 3 because of the rain.The basketball outfit of the Kanyan pepper boys, last month in their strive to end their title famine in decades, pinned a number of basketball teams, including LPRC Oilers 55-53 points.So far, Rollers have suffered two defeats to Timber Wolves and NPA Pythons, 53-49 and 64-54 points respectively.Former and current basketball champions, NPA Pythons and LPRC Oilers surpassed Barrolle’s triumph. Both teams have so far lost a game.However, in the second Wednesday’s game virtually youthful Timber Wolves convincingly walloped Dream Team II, 107-52 points, while Oilers boosted their chances over archrivals Pythons, winning 87-79 points.The two games were also rescheduled from Sunday, May 4.According to the fixture, the league continues today with two 2nd division teams opening the floor; Uhuru Prince and Heats; and Cestos Morgars will face Dream Team II, in the first division.Several spectators, including Mary Taylor, Siatta Mensah, David Nagbe and Jenkins Nah on Wednesday expressed their hope for a continuous favorite weather condition for the league to end successfully.They urged the LBA management to take care of the generator to avoid mechanical fault and should not rent the gym during scheduled games days.Die-hard Barrolle fan, Madam Taylor said it is sad for the games to be cancelled because of the rains and it is frustrating for the generator to cause the deferment of games.Nagbe and Nah, in separate interviews said it is not correct for the LBA management to rent the Sports Commission.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more


LACC New Vice Chair, Commissioners Take Office

first_imgOn Monday, June 9, 2014, the newly appointed Vice Chairperson of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), Cllr. J. Augustine Toe along with two new Commissioners, Charles J.L. Gibson, Jr. and Aba Hamilton Dolo formally took over their respective offices at a ceremony held at the Commission. The ceremony was presided over by the Commission’s Executive Chairperson, Cllr. James N. Verdier, Jr. who assured Liberians that with the sitting of the full body of Commissioners, accountability and integrity would be restored in public service.In his response, Vice Chairperson, Cllr. Toe pledged his commitment to the fulfilment of the mission of the Commission without fear or favour. Also speaking on behalf of the new Commissioners, Commissioner Dolo said a new day has dawn in Liberia in the fight against corruption where perpetrators of corruption will be pursued and prosecuted. Commissioner Dolo has oversight responsibility for Education & Prevention while Commissioner Gibson has oversight responsibility for Administration.Commissioner Dolo comes to the Commission with a wealth of knowledge and skill as a public servant. She has over the years rendered valuable services as Consultant, Facilitator, Financial Treasurer, Coordinator, Administrator and Teacher, both in Liberia and the United States. Commissioner Dolo holds a BBA degree in Finance from the University Du Benin in Togo and M.A. degree in Health Services Administration from the St. Mary’s University in the United States.For Commissioner Gibson, he brings to the LACC rich experience in Accounting, Auditing, Management and Finance.  He has been in the private sector, both in the United States of America and Liberia, for a little over twenty (20) years.  He earlier worked as a senior auditor at the General Auditing Office, now the General Auditing CommissionMr. Gibson holds a BBA degree from the University of Liberia with emphasis in Accounting and Management and MBA in Finance from the St. Mary’s University in the United States.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more


GAWU supports cash-strapped GuySuCo bailout

first_imgAs the cash woes of the sugar industry deepen, calls for another bailout to the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) have been made by the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU).In an interview with Guyana Times on Wednesday, President of GAWU Komal Chand said the fact that GuySuCo is a State-run enterprise; he is in agreement for Government to appropriate additional funds to provide assistance to the struggling company.GAWU President Komal ChandChand suggested that bearing in mind the size and importance of the industry, it should not be allowed to fail.“[The union is] very much supportive of the Government assisting the ailing sugar industry which we all agree is too big to fail. The industry is owned by the State – the Government having all the shares of the industry”“We are calling on the Government to assist the industry as is required from time to time [and] we also wish to remind the public that the industry in the better days [did] make a contribution to the treasury [especially from 1976 to 1996] when $ 60 billion was made available through the sugar levy,” Chand noted.While the GAWU President declined to comment on the impact of the near 30,000 tonnes shortfall in the sugar industry’s most recent crop, he observed that the second crop is on target.“We understand from the Chairman that the second crop will be on target,” the GAWU President noted in reference to the 159,243 tonnes as projected by GuySuCo for the second crop.After a review of the first crop for 2016, the Sugar Corporation announced that it experienced a shortfall of 29.3 per cent with actual production of 56,825 tonnes compared with a budget of 80,270 tonnes. While GuySuCo stated that an audit is underway, it also advised that it is not expected that the final figure would “vary significantly”.The Sugar Corporation attributed the short fall to the El Niño weather conditions which it said “severely dried out the canes” which led to constrained cane growth and reduced sugar content.“The shortfall is bound to have significant financial implications for an already cash-strapped industry. It would therefore necessitate management considering further strategies for re-organisation of the industry with a view of making the Corporation a viable business entity,” a statement from GuySuCo added.Chairman of GuySuCo, Dr Clive Thomas has reportedly opined that the Corporation would need another bailout, as over 60 per cent of its allocations were utilised. According to reports, the Chairman is of the view that the Corporation has no other choice than to appeal for a new bail-outWhile Dr Thomas did not specify exactly how much funds are being sought, Government has not publicly consented to another bail-out for the cash-strapped industry. It was only on Friday last that sugar workers attached to the Wales Estate were set to engage in protest action after GuySuCo was late in issuing salaries. Guyana Times learnt that after workers made these threats, the Sugar Corporation hurriedly procured the funds to issue payments.In January, central government transferred to GuySuCo, some $9 billion to assist in its operations.last_img read more


In Awake of Ebola Liberian Shines on Int’l Stage

first_imgDespite Liberia being badly hit by Ebola and its citizens placed under international spotlight because of the disease, a citizen of the land is busy flying the flag high on the international stage.Alfred H. Wreh, a Liberian currently pursuing post graduate studies at the University of Queensland, Australia, has been nominated to participate in the global International Society for Industrial Ecology Student Chapter Board Election.The Liberian scholar, according to reports, is the first ever, and only African amongst colleagues from Brazil, Germany, Switzerland, China, USA, Hong Kong, Norway, South Korea, USA, Austria and others to be selected to that portfolio.According to a dispatch from Australia, the Student Chapter Board president, Xiao Li, expressed delight in the nominees and encouraged them to be prepared for the challenges ahead.He disclosed that the Student Chapter nominees will serve a term of two years. Li averred that the society is interested in increasing the representation of students from outside North America and Europe.  He said he  is well pleased with the current composition.For his part, Wreh said hailing from a natural resource-rich country devastated by 14 years of conflict, and representing the chapter of one of the world’s best universities was a dream come true.  He noted that the International Society for Industrial Ecology has always been a radical and powerful force for change; an inspirational source of ideas and an innovation which requires companies to ensure that  cleaner production, best practices and standards are upheld.Wreh stated: “Its farsighted founder imbued the Society with a sense of purpose not only to encourage innovativeness, broaden learning, cultivate students’ skills and ensure that industries production and profitability is enhanced; but to ensure our actions globally will improve industries’ overall sustainability, alleviate poverty and provide better services while managing the world’s resources.“I share a common set of values which commits us to rising to the challenges of the social and economic crisis facing  Africa and the world at large.  These challenges can be met through activities which help to regain and boost our quest for a “sustainable” world by alleviating the plight of the vulnerable sections of our society today. We remain committed to the principles of finding innovative solutions to complicated environmental problems, while facilitating  communication among scientists, engineers, policymakers, managers and environmental advocates whose work interest focuses on finding a balance between environmental and economic actions.”The Liberian told over 700 global students that as a candidate, the first African to be nominated since the Society’s founding, he brings the African experience, which fulfils the society’s global commitment.  Wreh reminded the world of the great potentials in Liberians across the globe, stressing that the presence of the Ebola virus in his country does not call for neglect or isolating citizens of the continent’s oldest independent nation.Mr. Alfred H. Wreh, a Liberian Pursuing Postgraduate studies specifically in  Environmental Management,  majoring in Natural Resources at the University of Queensland in Australia, was  nominated on September 30, 2014 by his university student chapter for election pending a vetting process by the society board.   The vetting process was concluded on October 11, 2014.The candidates elected will immediately begin work and will join the organization of the 4th Symposium on Industrial Ecology for Young Professionals (SIEYP IV) at the Biannual ISIE Conference in Surrey, UK, July 2015.The International Society for Industrial Ecology, with offices at Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, promotes industrial ecology as a way of finding innovative solutions to complicated environmental problems.   The Society facilitates communication among scientists, engineers, policymakers, managers and advocates who are interested in better integrating environmental concerns with economic activities.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more


DCI Distributes Food, Anti-Ebola Items to Orphans, Victims

first_imgDefence for Children International- Liberia, has begun the distribution of food and anti-Ebola items to several communities in Montserrado and Bomi counties, respectively.The distributions started in Low Cost Village in Bensonville, where 18 persons died of the Ebola virus. DCI will focus on communities most affected by the epidemic.The DCI executive director, Atty. Foday M. Kawah, said the organization was identifying with orphans and others affected by the deadly Ebola virus.The items distributed included anti-Ebola buckets, chlorate, rice, sugar, oil and ovaltine for the children and women as well as men who have lost parents, guardians and care givers to the Ebola virus.”DCI is targeting 89 households but will pay more attention to the orphans.“We are doing this because we are a child rights institution and need to ensure that these orphans are provided food; we believe in the rights of our children and women’s rights as well; so, our targeted beneficiaries are orphans.  Women who lost their husbands as well as men who lost their wives to Ebola will also benefit from the donation,” said Mr. Kawa.The DCI executive director further pledged his organization’s commitment to providing legal representation for women and children who are victims of gender based violence amid the Ebola crisis in the country as well as old folks who are vulnerable in the society.Pastor Johnson H. Kollie thanked DCI-Liberia for the donation, describing it as timely for the orphans and others affected by the epidemic in the area.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more


What Man Can Do, Woman Can Do – With Flying Colors

first_imgThings have surely improved for women in Liberia. Gone are the days when a woman sits at home all day waiting for her breadwinner to come home while spending those long waiting hours cleaning, cooking, ironing, minding the children climaxed with massaging her spouse’s feet when he finally does arrive.Contrast this scenario to today’s women. They study, raise families, and run organizations. They even drive taxis and motorcycles. In Liberia, they ride motorcycles with a singular objective, and that is to make money, while feeling the wind blow through their hair.Some say they plan on doing it for life.Cairo, Egypt was one of the first countries to begin putting pink colored uniforms on their female drivers, a service marketed as a safe way for women to travel on their own or in rented vehicles. Safety was an issue for Egyptian women and the pink uniforms helped civilians to identify the female drivers and also help look out for them.Liberia has also picked up on the same idea, but with pink helmets and jackets for female motorbike riders, christening them ‘Pink Panthers.” It all started with donations from Henrietta Tolbert of the Angie Brooks International Center for Women Empowerment (whom we have contacted or an interview but still await her response). Since her donations, the Pink Panthers are now able to identify with and be on the lookout for one another, as all motorcyclists do.According to a recent BBC story, tired of being robbed and harassed, Liberian female motorcyclists formed the Pink Panthers collective to make sure that they were easy to spot.David Johnson, a motorcyclist who lost his brother to a motorcycle accident last month, says he has been impressed with the way the women, though only a handful, have come together.“You know, as a woman, you should know your place in terms of knowing how to act and fit in. Sometimes these women try to act like men and can get very aggressive with people. I don’t know, but we are used to seeing women. The President made it easy for everyone to get used to seeing women working, too. But they are so aggressive at times, and that can lead to people wanting to take advantage of them,” Johnson stated.But according to Michael, an arresting motorcycle union officer who runs traffic to make sure that motorcyclists are under control, he sometimes comes across these women. He feels that they are doing a great job by making money from their interest in riding motorcycles.“I like to see women, especially those who look focused and don’t allow anyone to interfere with their purpose out here. With some more training and a little more sensitizing of the public about them being out here, too, they will be okay. Every motorbike rider is robbed and harassed, not just them; though I haven’t seen it. People need to just respect the fact that driving motorcycles for a living is not easy and they should give us a chance for taking the risk that comes with it,” he shared.For now, safety is a prime concern for women considering commercial motorcycling or being taxi drivers, which carry the risks of assault, harassment and theft. What measures can be put in place other than having them wear pink to further protect them?Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more


World Bank Approves US$40M for Governance Reform

first_imgThe World Bank (WB) Executive Board of Directors have approved a US$40 million International Development Association (IDA) grant for Liberia to help address governance reforms and human capital development in the country.World Bank Country Manager for Liberia, Larisa Leshchenko, who spoke yesterday at a quarterly media dialogue with journalists held in Congo Town, said the Third Poverty Reduction Support Development Policy Operation (PRSDPO-III) grant, which includes US$8 million from the IDA Crisis Response Window (CRW), will support government’s strong policy efforts to adjust to the twin shocks of the Ebola crisis and the slump in commodity prices.“We are pleased to inform you that Finance and Development Planning Minister Boima Kamara and I signed the agreement to enable the operation to become effective. This operation will strengthen governance, with particular emphasis on transparency and accountability, as well as budget execution and oversight. It will address key constraints to growth, including electricity, and improve human capital development, particularly through improved access to education and health,” Ms. Leshchenko said.She said the poverty reduction grant agreement is the third in a series of four operations and that Liberia has developed a good track record of undertaking difficult and challenging reforms.These reforms, according to her, are crucial for helping to create the enabling environment for the transformation of the economy and the improvement of lives.Reforms on governance, she said, will also help to create a more transparent government, limit corruption, and raise the confidence of citizens and investors.Addressing the lack of electricity, she said lowering its price “helps to increase access to both residential and business customers, thereby not only providing more light for children to study by at night, but also facilitating the development of the manufacturing sector, including the agro-industry.” Additionally, Ms. Leshchenko informed journalists that the WBG and the Liberian government signed a US$4.2 million grant of the bank’s Africa Catalytic Growth Fund to support the completion of key construction of the West Africa Regional Fisheries Program in the country, including the completion of the Mesurado Fish Complex and the integration of the Mesurado-Robertsport Cluster.“We like to reiterate that the process of developing a new Country Partnership Framework (CPF) for Liberia has started,” she added.Explaining further, she said the CPF will guide the bank’s engagement with Liberia over the next three to five years and the bank will work towards engaging with various stakeholders, including the media, to get inputs.These inputs, the World Bank Manager said, will be important to the development of the CPF, which will assist the bank to identify constraints to poverty reduction and shared growth, adding that the WB considers the media an important partner in working towards achieving these goals and objectives.Meanwhile, Program Leader Errol Graham said “This operation will help the Government of Liberia to strengthen governance with particular emphasis on transparency and accountability. It will also address key constraints to growth, including electricity, and will help mitigate the commodity price shocks.”He said the grant will also strengthen the weak infrastructure, which is critical for achieving inclusive growth in Liberia.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more


Lessons from Wologizi: The Challenges of Navigating Centuries of Taboos, Traditions and Customary Practices…

first_imgBy Radiatu Haja Sheriff-Kahnplaye, Policy Advisor, Natural Resources Women Platform BackgroundLiberia is currently in the middle of a defining presidential and legislative election with about 20 presidential candidates and thousands of legislative candidates. The electoral process for 2017 including a controversial Supreme Court decision has brought into question as to whether the outcome would be credible and peaceful, especially given that the United Nations peace keeping force is also withdrawing from the country.As Liberians cautiously observe the electoral process, they are also being reminded of the havoc of the years of civil war which resulted in the death of approximately 250,000 people driven by widespread greed over natural resources and wealth illegally obtained from such resources. There were violations of human rights which were compounded by systematic inequality and the loss of livelihoods. Women became the worst victims and suffered the most. They painfully experienced some of the most egregious and indescribable forms of violence and abuse. Land and natural resources fueled that conflict. It is therefore important that as Liberians decide the direction of our country on October 10, we are reminded about the role land and natural resources played in our conflict.In the last eleven years, despite improvement in legislations that provide protection to customary land and property rights, the Government of Liberia has failed to guarantee the free, prior and informed consent of communities, especially women depending on land and natural resources  affected by large-scale land development, violating not only the rights of community members to control and manage the land they directly cultivate but the broader territory inclusive of natural resources, medicinal plants, hunting grounds, fishing grounds, rivers, streams, shrines, sacred sites and other forest resources.The rights of communities to land and natural resources, especially women depending on land and natural resources, are fundamental in securing the set of rights related to livelihood, culture, self-identification, self-management and the right to determine their own priorities for development. This means that if communities have control over development affecting them and their lands and resources, they will be able to maintain and strengthen their institutions and promote their development in accordance with their aspirations and needs.The lack of community participation in the granting of large-scale concessions over ancestral and/or traditionally-held lands has led to resource-based violence across many agriculture, forestry and mining concessions, leading to heightened tension between community members and concession holders on the one hand and community members and government on the other. This is also worsening the poverty situation of marginal and vulnerable forest-dependent peoples, mostly women, in the rural areas. The results have included the intimidation, arrest, torture and detention of human rights defenders of land and natural resources in Liberia by government and concession holders.The problems In late September of 2016, the Natural Resources Women Platform with support from Green Advocates launched a report, “Women: The Least Secure Tenure: Assessing the impacts of large-scale land acquisitions on women’s tenure rights in Liberia.” The report through series of cross case analyses focused on women’s tenure rights in natural resources, where it found that even though women are the primary users of natural resources, their tenure rights are much less secure than men. Per the report, women’s situation and circumstances is further made even more tenuous where large scale land development is imposed on local communities thereby extinguishing most rights and privileges women may have had under customary tenure, pushing them beyond even marginal lands.The report detailed disturbing rights violations and documented how women human rights defenders protesting the grabbing of their customary lands have faced threats, arrests and imprisonment as well as series of criminal charges and offenses. It notes that “the lack of gender considerations in working conditions and practices was outstanding and had deterred women from much needed access to productive work relegating women to the background with little recognition of women as important and equal stakeholders in decision making over the use (or disposal), management and control of land and natural resources.”The report established how the “loss of land, forests and water resources had affected women in their reproductive, productive and community management roles” concluding that “women can be considered less fortunate because in the context of natural resources they hold the least secure tenure.”Reversing insecurity of tenure for women, especially women depending on land and natural resources in Liberia, is a humongous task. This is because in Liberia, women’s insecurity of tenure has been informed and entrenched by centuries of taboos, traditions and customary practices often reinforced by supernatural beliefs.Partial View of women participants at the Participatory Rural Appraisal-Darbu TownIt is these traditions and archaic superstitious beliefs that have held hostage the rights of women to land and property rights in Liberia. This is what must be unpackaged to secure women’s customary land and property rights not just in Liberia but perhaps globally.The Wologizi Mountain range -the Failed attempts to secretly award it and the political falloutsOne of the five case study areas, that the Natural Resources Women Platform, carried out its field investigation to assess the impact of large scale concession land development that informed the report, “Women the Least Secure Tenure,” was among Wologizi communities in Lofa County.This case study location was selected because it had not experienced large scale land concession development and customary practices were very much intact.Wologizi therefore provided a potential not just because it would contribute to the establishment of a robust and informed community institution to ensure the recognition and protection of collective rights to land and resources, but that it was also an important study area to observe the interplay of how centuries of taboos, traditions and customary practices are serving as barriers and impediments to securing women’s customary land and property rights in Liberia.It remains one of Liberia’s traditional communities where community members have customary ways of recognizing land and resource rights of individual members or households, the collective rights to self-determination, cultural integrity and development. Community members have traditionally occupied and owned the land and resources in Wologizi, which was inherited from their ancestors.For community members, it is the traditional occupation and use which is the basis for establishing community land rights and self-identification as well as maintaining and strengthening collective rights to land and natural resources.There have already been two failed attempts to grant out the mountain range as a concession. The Government of Liberia, in 2013, tried to secretly award Wologizi to Jindal Steel & Power Limited, and the recent row to secretly award Wologizi to Sable Mining Company by changing Liberia’s procurement law.Deconstructing the Insecurity of Tenure- A robust and participatory local institution In late April of 2017, the Natural Resources Women Platform in partnership with Green Advocates embarked on a process of contributing to addressing the issues of security of tenure through the establishment of a robust and informed community institution to ensure the recognition and protection of collective rights to land and resources by local communities and indigenous people inhabiting the Wologizi mountain range already earmarked for expansion of concessions in Liberia.In May of 2017, the Natural Resource Women Platform (NRWP) joined by Green Advocates and their county-based partner organization, conducted six participatory rural appraisal (PRA) workshops in six project targeted communities surrounding the Wologizi mountain range.During the PRA, the women platform focused on facilitating women’s leadership and representation in the current and future governing institutions associated with the management of land and natural resources located within the Wologizi mountain range and the surrounding communities.Legal and policy experts working with the women platform and Green Advocates recommended that by utilizing the Community Rights Law, the Land Rights Policy and the Draft Land Rights Act, a robust, gender focused, informed and resilient community based institution would be expected to serve as a preventive measure against the violation of community rights while empowering community members to increase their control and management of their land and natural resources and put them in the driver seat of their own development and priorities.This approach seems to be a material paradigm shift from current approaches to protecting collective land rights. For example, over the past years, civil society organizations and their local community partners have assisted local communities to demand their rights in land areas already occupied by large-scale concessions.Community members have succeeded in slowing down, delaying and in some instances holding back the monstrous pace of large-scale concessions development in Liberia. In some instances, the Government of Liberia publicly admitted that there were errors in awarding concessions outside community consent, promising to consult communities in decision making over future concessions.However, despite the public admissions of error and blunder in awarding concessions, reversing such concessions to recognize and respect collective rights to land and natural resources, restore sacred sites and damaged water systems has been slow and difficult.Challenges associated with facilitating women leadership and representation on customary governance institution  The Women Platform and Green Advocates researchers organized and divided the six communities into two working groups based on the geographic locations around the Wologizi range as well as the demographic characteristics of each of the six communities. Group one engaged Wobeyanmai, Beideyeziba and Karzah, while group two engaged with Dabu, Kpademai and Betibah.The team conducted the research in a way that allowed all field assistants, researchers and community participants to benefit from an improved understanding and shared experience of the methodology of the workshop. The entire team participated in facilitating the first research workshop held in Beideyeziba, which gave everyone on the team a better understanding of the design of the workshop, the composition of the participants and the facilitation and/or presentation processes.The team was divided into their respective groups ensuring that there was at least one female researcher on each of the two working groups as well as at least two female participants from each of the communities, a timetable developed with topics and timeframes for presentation.Given the sensitivities surrounding women participation, the Women Platform made extra efforts to ensure that at least two women were selected to form part of the participants from each of the communities. As an additional safeguard, the participatory mapping training workshop was organized outside of the six communities in the municipal capital of Lofa county, Voinjama city.Preliminary findings Women participants invited from all six communities that participated in the workshop including the three other women participants from neighboring towns (Jenneh, Gondorla and Wanlema) that were invited to the Darbu workshop had no idea as to how land is owned by their communities or the commitments or rights their customary leaders have granted outsiders to their land and resources.All the women participants had no knowledge that benefits or social contributions were being given to their leaders as compensation by strangers as rights to live on, use, access or harvest resources from their land.Even though women had knowledge about the existence of traditional governance institutions, they were, however, rarely consulted or encouraged to participate in natural resources decision making processes, except in situations concerning domestic complaints or dispute resolution processes.In all the six communities, community leaders included women as participants, though women were afraid to ask or respond to questions because of traditions that have existed over the years in their communities restricting women from speaking or making any decision in meetings related to their communities.As the various workshops made progress, it became clear that traditional, customary, taboos and superstitious belief practices by communities around the Wologizi Mountain had created obstacles which were serving as barriers to women participation and impeding women’s performance during discussions at the workshops in the six communities.Breaking away from customary practices, traditions and taboos Women were observing centuries of customary practices and taboos that prevented them from speaking or making decisions when men are present. In the towns of Beduiyeziba and Wobeyanmai, when women were directly asked by the facilitator to give feedbacks on laws being presented during the workshop, not a single woman spoke up or could say a word – it was voiced by elders of the town that women are to remain quiet during meetings.It was a queer moment with an eerie feeling as the room was so quiet, that the participants could hear the rustle of the leaves against the branches of the trees surrounding the workshop room.It took a delicate negotiation with the elders and chiefs as well as an affirmative gender based balancing act by the women platform to break the ice permitting the women participants to talk in the presence of their men.A woman participant breaking away from taboos and tradition during the mapping training session in Bet bahAfter the elders and chiefs consented, the women who had been quiet began participating and asking questions. The chief Zoe of Wobeyamai Town (Zita Kolubah- not her real name) said she’s happy about all the good laws that give communities rights to the land and resources they have resided and owned for so many years.Lorpu Midi (not her real name) said she worked for Firestone Rubber Plantation Company when workers were paid 10 cents and later 20 cents. She inquired “whether monetary value is attached to the land demarcation that the community’s representatives will be trained to map” She inquired “my reason for asking this question is we gave money to some surveyor for the demarcation of our land to allow the community obtain deed for the land. Since the transaction, we have not gotten the deed to our land.”Another woman participant inquired “whether the organizers will support and defend the Wobeyanmai Community.” Musu sumo (not her real name ), a woman participant from Wobeyanmai Town, said that women have not had the opportunity to make decisions or point out things moving in the right direction only because “our men believe that women are not able to make any positive change in society.” An elderly woman asked “what will be the cost of suing the government in a case where they violate the rights of a community?”A young woman participant inquired “with common boundaries between communities around the Wologizi Mountain, if one community has investment into their community and the investors cross the boundary into the next community what should the community do?” Another woman from the town of Gondorla asked what “if a company is allowed to harvest timber in a community but the community later observed the company extracting iron ore, what should be done by the community?”A woman participant from Darbu Town asked “if a company operation requires the community to relocate to another community what should be the community’s reaction?” Finally, an elderly woman from Darbu Town asked “Do I have the authority to extract gold and diamond from my community since the land and resources on the land are owned by my community?”The workshop was all of a sudden alive and the women, all smiling and joyful, were asking questions one after another. It was a sigh of relief and its seems a huge burden had been lifted.The workshop facilitators and field research assistants from Monrovia could not believe the depth and level of knowledge, expertise and experience flowing from out of the questions and queries of these women.All of a sudden, it was like a scene in a marketplace and the chit chat of these women took over the room like a storm as the men watched and observed in amazement, and probably dumb founded that their women participants could ask such intelligent and informed questions.Navigating the taboos, traditions and customary practices that serve as barriers to securing women customary land and property rights The various questions and inquiries were a shocking reminder of how taboos, traditions and superstitious beliefs among communities around the Wologizi Mountain had created an obstacle of grading women’s performance during discussions at the workshops in the six communities.Thus, it was recommended by the Natural Resource Women Platform that men give their women power and authority participate in all future community meetings.The Women Platform took extra time to explain to all participants why it was important for men to understand women have rights and form a cardinal part of the issues around land and resources, especially since woman even use the land and natural resources more than men.To conclude, in a campaign designed to establish a robust and informed community institution, especially if the goal is to also facilitate and enable women leadership and representation, development experts, field researchers and activists must be able to navigate the taboos, traditions, superstitious beliefs and customary practices that serves as barriers and impediments to securing women’s customary land and property rights.It is therefore important that as Liberians decide the direction of our country on October 10, we are not only reminded about the role land and natural resources played in our conflict, but much more important our mothers, sisters, daughters, grandmothers, and wives.We must commit to unshackle centuries of taboos and traditions that have held them as unequal to men and guarantee them equal rights to land and natural resources.[1]http://www.forestpeoples.org/sites/fpp/files/news/2012/10/Final%20complaint%20to%20%20RSPO%20on%20Golden%20Veroleum-%20Butaw-sinoe%20county%20(2).pdf[2]http://rightsandresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Power-Potential-Liberia-Case-Study-1.pdf[3]http://inchrliberia.com/images/ButawRiotReport.pdf[5]https://www.liberianobserver.com/news/human-rights-violations-unacceptable/Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more


Pres. Weah Makes Additional Appointments in Gov’t

first_imgPres. Weah is expected to sign the Land Rights Act into law anytime soon.President George Weah has made additional appointments in Government, affecting the ministries of Justice and Public Works.Those appointed, according to an Executive Mansion release are: Ministry of JusticeSebastian Farr – Deputy Inspector General/Training and Manpower Development and Commandant, National Police Academy, and Ms. Abigail Wesseh- Deputy Commissioner/Operations, Liberia-Immigration Service.Ministry of Public WorksDave Slewion  –  Assistant Minister Construction, James Reynolds – Assistant Minister/Planning and Programming, and Ms. Kaustella Kailain – Assistant Minister/Operations.Board of Directors of the National Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Commission Statutory Members:Minister of Public Works – Chair, Minister of Mines and Energy – Member, Minister of Health – Member, Minister of Education – Member, Managing Director/Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation – Member, Director General/National Public Health Institute of Liberia – Member, Executive Director/Environmental Protection Agency – Member, Prince Kreplah/representing Civil Society Organizations involve with WASH initiatives – Member, and Ernest G. Sharpe/representing the private sector – Member.Meanwhile, these appointments/nominations, according to the release, are subject to confirmation by the Senate where applicable.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more