Land reforms in Sierra Leone to empower rural communities

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Sierra Leone's parliament on Monday passed two laws said to boost the rights of rural landowners and women.

The Customary Land Rights Act and the Land Commission Act, both enacted on the same day, empower local landowners to negotiate the value of their land with investors and prevent it from being leased out without their prior informed consent. 

Ngo Action for Large-Scale Land Acquisition Transparency (ALLAT) reported that between 2009 and the end of 2012, foreign agribusiness investors had secured 50-year leases with possible extensions to 21.4 percent of Sierra Leone’s total arable land.

Although there is no firm data on the incidence of land disputes through courts, inter-family disputes, inter-village disputes and conflicts between landowners and companies were believed to be on the rise last decade.

"This is a win-win situation for both business and Sierra Leoneans including rural landowners," Lands Minister Turad Senessie told Reuters.

Ngo Namati hailed a legal regime that "grants robust rights to communities facing environmental harm".

One of the laws will also end a provision that bars descendants of freed slaves locally known as Creoles from owning land outside the capital, Freetown.

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