Data

General Issues
Human Rights & Civil Rights
Environment
Planning & Development
Specific Topics
Environmental Conservation
Freedom of Speech
Indigenous Planning
Location
Grand Bassa
Liberia
Scope of Influence
Regional
Files
Community Efforts to Protect Land-Jogbahn Clan in Liberia_Class Essay 2020
Links
SDI: 'No Means No' - Jogbahn Clan, EPO, and the Fight over Land in District 4
Start Date
End Date
Ongoing
No
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time
Purpose/Goal
Make, influence, or challenge decisions of government and public bodies
Approach
Protest
Social mobilization
Informal engagement by intermediaries with nongovernmental authorities
Spectrum of Public Participation
Not applicable or not relevant
Open to All or Limited to Some?
Open to All With Special Effort to Recruit Some Groups
Targeted Demographics
Indigenous People
Stakeholder Organizations
General Types of Methods
Protest
Collaborative approaches
Community development, organizing, and mobilization
General Types of Tools/Techniques
Collect, analyse and/or solicit feedback
Facilitate dialogue, discussion, and/or deliberation
Legality
Yes
Facilitators
Yes
Facilitator Training
Professional Facilitators
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Face-to-Face
Types of Interaction Among Participants
Storytelling
Ask & Answer Questions
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
Public Report
Primary Organizer/Manager
Sustainable Development Institute (SDI)
Type of Organizer/Manager
Community Based Organization
Non-Governmental Organization
Staff
Yes
Volunteers
Yes
Evidence of Impact
Yes
Types of Change
Changes in public policy
Conflict transformation
Implementers of Change
Appointed Public Servants
Elected Public Officials

CASE

Communities’ Efforts to Protect Land: A Case of Jogbahn Clan in Liberia

November 8, 2021 Jesi Carson, Participedia Team
October 14, 2021 pan
October 12, 2021 Pan Khantidhara, Participedia Team
November 11, 2020 Patrick L Scully, Participedia Team
October 7, 2020 Patrick L Scully, Participedia Team
September 18, 2020 kieran.way
September 1, 2020 Patrick L Scully, Participedia Team
August 5, 2020 xinyuu.wang
August 4, 2020 xinyuu.wang
August 1, 2020 Willinger Stephan
General Issues
Human Rights & Civil Rights
Environment
Planning & Development
Specific Topics
Environmental Conservation
Freedom of Speech
Indigenous Planning
Location
Grand Bassa
Liberia
Scope of Influence
Regional
Files
Community Efforts to Protect Land-Jogbahn Clan in Liberia_Class Essay 2020
Links
SDI: 'No Means No' - Jogbahn Clan, EPO, and the Fight over Land in District 4
Start Date
End Date
Ongoing
No
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time
Purpose/Goal
Make, influence, or challenge decisions of government and public bodies
Approach
Protest
Social mobilization
Informal engagement by intermediaries with nongovernmental authorities
Spectrum of Public Participation
Not applicable or not relevant
Open to All or Limited to Some?
Open to All With Special Effort to Recruit Some Groups
Targeted Demographics
Indigenous People
Stakeholder Organizations
General Types of Methods
Protest
Collaborative approaches
Community development, organizing, and mobilization
General Types of Tools/Techniques
Collect, analyse and/or solicit feedback
Facilitate dialogue, discussion, and/or deliberation
Legality
Yes
Facilitators
Yes
Facilitator Training
Professional Facilitators
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Face-to-Face
Types of Interaction Among Participants
Storytelling
Ask & Answer Questions
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
Public Report
Primary Organizer/Manager
Sustainable Development Institute (SDI)
Type of Organizer/Manager
Community Based Organization
Non-Governmental Organization
Staff
Yes
Volunteers
Yes
Evidence of Impact
Yes
Types of Change
Changes in public policy
Conflict transformation
Implementers of Change
Appointed Public Servants
Elected Public Officials

A community-led participatory process that empowered people in Jogbahn Clan in Grand Bassa to counter the advancement of foreign oil companies on their land. The community engagement led to the exposure of the Liberian government's role in conceding community land to oil palm companies, and a renewed call for land reform and protection of communal land in Liberia. Test

Problems and Purpose

The community participatory process sought to address land grabbing in Grand Bassa that was carried out by the Equatorial Palm Oil (EPO) with the acquiescence of the government. Specifically, the community sought to address the illegal concession of the land on which residents of Jogbahn Clan have lived for generations and relied on for livelihood sustainability. The end goal of the community’s participatory efforts was to compel EPO and the government to recognize that the residents have the rights to determine ownership over their land, and at the same time to stop the EPO from further exploiting community land.

Background History and Context

The protestation over the advancement of EPO on community land started in 2013 when the government allowed the company to expand its palm oil plantation onto the land of the Jogbahn Clan. However, members of the clan were not consulted in the process leading to the concession between the government and EPO. As a result, the community invited the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) to their clan to investigate the concession. The SDI is a Liberian-based non-governmental organization (NGO) that works to “transform decision-making processes of natural resource management so the benefits are shared equally” (SDI, 2002).[1] In its investigation, the SDI learned that as a part of the concession agreement the government signed, EPO was mandated to conduct a survey of the land in Jogbahn Clan that the concession documented. The reason for the survey was to set aside a portion of land for the residents of Jogbahn Clan to carry out food production and cultural practices[2]. However, the communities expressed opposition to the survey, regarding it as a step towards converting their land into an oil palm plantation.

When the Jogbahn Clan’s land was conceded, Liberia was still in recovery from its 14 years of civil war. During this time, the country faced severe economic, political, and social pressure[3]. As a result, the first post-war government led by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf took a 3-pronged recovery strategy. One of the economic recovery measures was to attract foreign direct investment to all sectors of the economy, primarily in the extractive industry and agribusiness sector[4].

However, weak state institutions, patronage politics, and two parallel legal systems governing land tenure, among other challenges, inhibited the post-war government’s recovery strategies [5]. For example, the government did not consider the potential negative side-effects for social stability of massive foreign direct investments entering the post-civil war country in a corrupt system. Thus, many state officials took advantage of the loopholes in the system to take bribes and sign shabby concession deals that did not meet best international practices [6]. The contract with EPO included concession agreements the government signed in 2010 that did not meet international standards, and that did not consider the rights and claims rural communities have over their land.

Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities

Jogbahn Clan initiated the protest against EPO and the local government, and they invited SDI to get involved in the conflict. With the goal in mind of advancing the principle of equally sharing the benefits of natural resources by transforming the decision-making processes, the organization helped organize the community residents’ fight against the foreign company’s land seizures. The community’s protests were funded by the residents, and SDI's work was funded by the organization. Members of the community were not paid for their involvement in protest actions.

Participant Recruitment and Selection

This initiative was not open to the public, but only limited to affected parties in this conflict, which were the residents of Jogbahn Clan. SDI carried out multiple meetings with the community members after it arrived in the community. To make sure the meeting was fair and not dominated by leaders, the community decided to create space for those self-appointed leaders. And in order for the decision-making process to be representative, SDI also asked every town to nominate two people -- one of whom was required to be one woman -- to serve as representatives for future meetings with SDI.

There were no enticements in this initiative, because on the one hand, the Jogbhan Clan as the main participating subject was the direct beneficiary of the initiative if they won the conflict against EPO, while on the other hand, the success of the initiative signifies that both the government and the company admitted their legal right and ownership over the land.

Methods and Tools Used

In the process of assisting and supporting Joghban Clan’s protest with EPO, SDI used several methods to collect material from and communicate with the community, including nomination and voting of representatives through joint council/committee. The community also used a variety of methods and tools, including public meetings and the technique of storytelling. During the public meetings, community leaders and the SDI engaged a wide audience in information sharing and discussion. Through this method, participants gained appreciation of the community’s problems and engaged in shared planning of strategies to develop solutions. SDI facilitated storytelling to collect information from the community residents, as the organization wanted to understand the basic prototype of the conflict from the residents’ side.

What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation

As mentioned in the background section, SDI accepted the clan’s invitation and quickly became involved in working as a professional facilitator to support the clan’s protest against EPO. The organization held multiple meetings with the community. It explained the procedure of filing a complaint to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a multi-stakeholder initiative that aims and claims to make palm oil production more sustainable through its regulation of members and system of certification[7]. Through the collaboration between the clan and SDI, Joghban Clan’s conflict with EPO was heard and accepted by RSPO.

Through the multiple face-to-face meetings between SDI and the community members, the community clearly expressed their desire not to allow EPO to invest on their land. SDI listened to the community members’ opinion, observed their protests, and documented the residents’ complaints and story against EPO’s expansion plan. The organization then used the collected geo-referenced photos, videos, and audio documents to inform Liberians and the international community of the land grabbing that was taking place in Jorgbahn Clan.

For the purpose of fairness and representativeness, SDI asked every town or community in the affected clan to nominate two persons (a male and a female) to represent their people. The representatives then worked together with SDI staff and formed a joint council on behalf of 363 households in 11 villages affected by the expansion plan of EPO to draft a complaint letter and send it to RSPO.

Through public meetings and storytelling, the SDI informed the community members of the protest. The organization also consulted every clan member at every level of community engagement to learn from residents’ personal experiences. The collective experience and goals of communities then formed a basis for the action plans to engage the government and EPO on the rights of communities’ land.

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

After initial struggles the communities faced in their attempts to organize and the subsequent involvement of SDI to help the Clan fight for its land, the people of Jogbahn Clan realized their goal of stopping the EPO’s expansion plan. In March 2014, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf announced that she would not permit EPO to expand onto Jogbahn Clan’s land.

The following historical context is important to understanding the importance of these efforts. The Liberian government decided to launch a land reform effort around 2003. Several government agencies were mandated to make progress on improving the policies of land tenure and to recognize the rights of customary land. One result of this effort was the Community Rights Law with Respect to Forest Lands, which was enacted by Liberian legislature in 2009, but not adequately enforced. In 2013 a call for “Free, Prior, and Informed Consent” (FPIC) related to land and natural resources was further entrenched in Liberia's political discussion. The policy stressed the significance of rights of customary land, which includes rights of the community as a collective landowner, and the rights of groups, families, and individuals within the community[8].

The Jogbahn Clan case, and other land grabbing cases across the country increased national awareness of these issues. These cases played an important role in the Liberia Land Commission's introducing the Land Rights Act to President Johnson-Sirleaf in 2014. The Act aimed to secure traditional land rights and ensure equitable benefits, along with economic growth and environmental protection for communal landholders[9].

Though the Land Rights Act did not end the conflict between Jogbahn Clan and EPO, it introduced a major turning point in the history of local residents' fight against large multinational corporations in Liberia. As a result of the Act, the Liberian Legislature, in 2018, passed a new law that now recognizes communities’ rights to land. Those rights didn’t exist prior to 2018[10].

Analysis and Lessons Learned

Protests initiated by the community members of Jogbahn Clan initiated were disorganized from the onset. Even though the communities understood that their rights to their land were violated, their ability to navigate the muddy political environment in Liberia to get their voices heard was limited. However, the entry of the SDI into this effort empowered the Clan. SDI's strategic and tactical advice enabled the community members to organize and plan protests against the EPO. Working together, the Jogbahn and the SDI were able to put public pressure on EPO, opening the possibility of the company losing RSPO certification. One possible reason that the communities' struggled to advance their case to their government and the international community might be that the majority of the community residents were not well-educated and did not know how to channel their efforts. Thus, they could only think of inviting SDI to assist them. The collaboration between the Clan and SDI presents a compelling case that non-governmental organizations can serve as important intermediary through which communities that lack resources and connections can make their voices heard nationally and internationally.

It is possible that the Jogbahn Clan members understood their limitations and invited people who were experienced to help their case. Because SDI did not impose on the communities, but instead listened to them, Clan members worked well with SDI. This also shows the importance of listening to the voices of citizens rather them imposing on them something they do not agree with. For example, after SDI clearly explained the significance and process of submitting a complaint to RSPO, the community members were willing to share their experience of fighting against EPO.

One lesson that this case demonstrates might be that it is important to take the rights of local communities into account when governments want to bring in foreign investments that have enormous unsustainable impact on local communities. Thus, it is important to involve the community members in the consultation process of concessions. Getting communities’ free, prior and informed consent is crucial for accounting for communities’ livelihood sustainability, the protection of communities' cultural sites and environment, and the avoidance of conflicts between communities, the government, and investors. At the same time, it is significant for local community members to improve their own ability, be it in education or in socio-political understanding of how to channel their grievances so as to improve their decision-making ability. This case demonstrates that when citizens have the means to channel their voices and are heard, they directly and indirectly influence decisions that affect their lives.

See Also

References

[1] Sustainable Development Institute. (n.d.). About Us. Retrieved July 15, 2020, from https://www.sdiliberia.org/about_us

[2] 'No Means No' - Jogbahn Clan, EPO, and the Fight over Land in District 4. (n.d.). Retrieved July 21, 2020, from https://investigations.sdiliberia.org/story/?id=8

[3] Paczynska, A. (2016). Liberia Rising? Foreign Direct Investment, Persistent Inequalities and Political Tensions. Peacebuilding, 4(3), 297-316. doi:10.1080/21647259.2016.1193938

[4] Forest Peoples Programme and Sustainable Development Institute. (2015, December). Respecting Rights? Assessing Oil Palm Companies’ Compliance with FPIC Obligations. Retrieved from https://rightsanddeforestation.org...

[5] Paczynska, A. (2016). Liberia rising? Foreign Direct Investment, Persistent Inequalities and Political Tensions. Peacebuilding, 4(3), 297-316. doi:10.1080/21647259.2016.1193938

[6] Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI) Post Award Process Audit Final Report (2013, May). Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. http://www.leiti.org.lr/uploads/2/1/5/6/21569928/leiti_post_award_process_audit_final_report.pdf

[7] Köhne, M. (2014). Multi-Stakeholder Initiative Governance as Assemblage: Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil as a Political Resource in Land Conflicts Related to Oil Palm Plantations. Agriculture and Human Values, 31(3), 469-480. doi:10.1007/s10460-014-9507-5

[8] Forest Peoples Programme and Sustainable Development Institute. (2015, December). Respecting Rights? Assessing Oil Palm Companies’ Compliance with FPIC Obligations. Retrieved from https://rightsanddeforestation.org...

[9] Brown, D. (2017). Social dimensions of land rights reform in Liberia: Some Unresolved Issues and Policy Dilemmas. Development Policy Review, 35. doi:10.1111/dpr.12322

[10] An Act to Establish the Land Rights Law of 2018, Republic of Liberia. (2018, September 19). www.legislature.gov.lr. http://iredd-lr.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Signed-Land-Rights-Act.pdf

External Links

Notes

The initial version of the case was produced and submitted by an undergraduate student at the Centre for Critical Development Studies at the University of Toronto Scarborough with the support of UofT graduate students, Kieran Way, Reem Sheikh-Khalil, and Nyanquoi Suah.