Collaborative Models: Landscape Analysis and Collaboration Assessment

Together, BRAC and Landesa created a program to assess the landscape of Bong County, Liberia. The resulting program report will include findings and recommendations on delivery mechanisms for closing the gaps on land rights. 

Assessing Land Rights in Bong County, Liberia
By: Margi McClung

Around the world, land and agriculture are intrinsically linked. In Liberia approximately half of the population lives in rural areas and land and agriculture are a primary source of employment and income. Late last month, the legislature passed the long-awaited Land Rights Bill indicating Liberia is set to embark on an ambitious and robust land reform effort. As the country looks to further empower its farmers, taking a comprehensive approach to integrating land rights and agriculture could be a timely and powerful opportunity.

In Liberia, two non-profit organizations, BRAC and Landesa, take different approaches to achieve a similar end – the alleviation of poverty among rural women, men, and families. BRAC’s goal in its Breaking the Cycle of Poverty and Malnutrition by Investing in Smallholder Value Chains project is to improve rural livelihoods through agriculture, livestock, and poultry rearing which necessitate access to land. Landesa’s Land Rights for Sustainable Development project gives rural populations more stability to enable longer-term labor and capital investments into land-based livelihoods.

In August 2018, the two organizations conducted a field assessment of their respective operations in Liberia through the Hilton Prize Coalition’s Collaborative Models program. The Coalition draws together past Laureates of the Hilton Humanitarian Prize, including BRAC and Landesa, to create opportunities for collaboration among Laureates, facilitate knowledge-sharing, and deepen understanding of best practices in sustainable development. These collaborations lead to improved services for millions of people.

The field assessment in Bong County, Liberia, where both BRAC and Landesa currently operate, revealed a number of implications and opportunities for their work on land and agriculture.

For Landesa, the assessment uncovered widespread challenges for youth. In Liberia, this population is defined as young people ages 15 to 35. The assessment found that youth struggle to access agriculture extension services, training, and labor to optimize their use of land, with female youth especially challenged. In Liberia, most agriculture and livelihood support programs are focused on adult farmers, with male farmers receiving the greatest benefits. This compounds existing inequalities in Liberia with the majority of rural land governed under patriarchal rules and customs that already favor men.

Alternately, the assessment revealed how some farmers encounter vulnerability to their land rights in the course of accessing agriculture services. Rural land in Liberia is often held under community tenure with a counsel of leaders stewarding access and use of land. To help its farmers improve access to land, BRAC has negotiated short-term use of fallow community land. But local leaders frequently revoke access once the land has been cleared and cultivated, perhaps recognizing the potential productivity in land once thought poor or useless.

What can we learn from these findings? First and foremost, it may be possible for Landesa and BRAC to synchronize their respective programs in Bong County so that beneficiaries receive both Landesa’s land rights programming and BRAC’s livelihoods support in one comprehensive service package.

There is a more comprehensive option for partnership that would provide further integrated support to farmers. Expanding the scope of Landesa and BRAC programming across Liberia could enable all farmers participating in BRAC’s Breaking the Cycle project to receive land-related legal awareness training from Landesa. Landesa beneficiaries under the Land Rights for Sustainable Development program could in turn receive agriculture support services from BRAC.

Both Landesa and BRAC already work with Liberian civil society organizations (CSO) on their respective projects. Forging new CSO relationships that bridge both organizations could better leverage the efforts of local partners. For instance, Landesa could partner with a CSO that operates a nationwide network of paralegals to offer direct legal assistance to BRAC farmers, helping them negotiate stronger lease terms and resolve disputes.

At this critical juncture, organizations like BRAC and Landesa, working collaboratively and alongside the government and civil society, can help ensure that the potential benefits to land rights and agricultural opportunities are enjoyed by millions of rural Liberians.

(Photos courtesy of BRAC USA)

About The Hilton Prize Coalition

The  Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the  Fellows Program, the  Collaborative Models Program  and the  Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat,  Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit  prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact  prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow  the Hilton Prize Coalition on  Twitter and  LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

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