Sierra Leone Telegraph: 4 June 2022:
The World Bank on Thursday approved a $41.1 million International Development Association (IDA) grant “to support the establishment of an efficient and accessible land administration system in Sierra Leone.”
The project, it says, will help strengthen the country’s legal and institutional framework in the sector by financing the implementation of the core aspects of the 2015 National Land Policy, including the registration of customary and freehold land tenure.
But questions are being asked by policy analysts and critics of the government as to whether the government needs $41 million to implement a fair and equitable land tenure system.
Critics say that most of that $41 million will be misappropriated and mismanaged by corrupt officials and ministers, as millions of Sierra Leoneans face starvation and malnutrition, amid soaring costs of living and economic decline.
But the World Bank in its press statement says that the “Sierra Leone Land Administration Project is aligned with the government’s Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy (2020), which identifies lack of access and ownership of land for women as a key issue.”
Abdu Muwonge, World Bank Country Manager for Sierra Leone said: “We believe that the project’s support for an efficient and accessible land administration system will have a transformative impact on the economy and society as a whole as well as positive impacts on agriculture productivity, urban development, own source revenue generation, and gender equality.
“The World Bank is therefore pleased to support the Sierra Leone Land Administration Project because effective and efficient land management systems reduce the risk of conflicts and offer opportunities for investments, which is critical for Sierra Leone’s economic development and poverty reduction.”
Sierra Leone operates a dual land tenure system where land in the Western Area is administered under freehold tenure while customary land in the provinces is covered by customary tenure systems.
World Bank assessments revealed that only a tiny percentage of land in the rural and urban areas are mapped and recorded while institutional arrangements are opaque.
The country’s legal framework for the land sector is not aligned with new technologies or principles of modern land administration and does not address women’s land ownership or land use rights adequately, the World Bank says in its statement on Thursday.
The project it believes, will “seek to ensure equal tenure rights and access to land for women and girls by addressing the outdated legal framework thereby closing identified legal gaps, updating and harmonizing the legal framework for the land administration sector. “
Linus Pott, Land Administration Specialist and Task Team Leader, says: “As the first major investment in Sierra Leone’s land administration system since independence, we are particularly excited that the project was prepared in close collaboration with the government and civil society, based on the globally agreed upon principles of the Voluntary Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT).”
The World Bank says that “the project will support legal reforms, awareness raising on land sector reforms, and significant capacity building for land administration functions. Also, it will support the establishment of appropriate ICT infrastructure, business processes re-engineering, development of a modern Land Information System (LIS) for automation of land administration processes, digitization of paper archives, containing deeds and cadastral maps, and providing base maps and a geodetic network. This support to the land administration system will enable the registration of customary and freehold land to strengthen tenure security.
“The project was prepared in close coordination with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations who has supported the implementation of the VGGT in Sierra Leone.”
With general and presidential elections due next June, there are fears this $41 million could be used by the government for partry political campaigning and gerrymandering – bribing of local chiefs anf political actors in support of the ruling SLPP party.