Negotiating Land Rights

Namati’s Community Land Protection Program is designed as a pro-active model that enables communities to unite together on the way their land is governed and used before investors come looking to make deals. It enables communities to negotiate from a position of strength with equity for all members.

Sometimes, however, we have to take another approach. When a community has already signed a deal with an investors or when an individual farmer has suffered land-grabbing by neighbours or by powerful elites, Namati can work with them to use the law to get the deal re-negotiated or seek redress through the courts.

In Sierra Leone we are working with communities who have seen the entire land of their villages signed away by elders and chiefs who did not have the whole community’s best interests at heart. In one case, with a Swiss biofuels company, we are renegotiating an inequitable 21,000-hectare lease that gave it control of all the land of dozens of villages and left them with nothing to grow food on. Where necessary we undertake litigation to seek redress and to strike down deals that are manifestly unjust. We also use the learning from our grassroots work to advocate policy changes. Sierra Leone’s cabinet is currently considering a new land law to which Namati provided substantive changes.

In Myanmar we are working on hundreds of cases of farmers who suffered land-grabbing by the military and powerful figures under decades of dictatorship. Paralegals working with our Myanmar partner provide a frontline giving advice on land laws to a much larger group of people than could be assisted by lawyers alone.