Guinea

An image of the country's flag.

The majority of Guinea’s population is rural, and more than 70% of the population works in the agriculture, livestock, fishery, forestry, and mining sectors. Farms are family-owned and -operated, and generally small: two-thirds are less than three hectares. Pastoralists move large herds seasonally between the hinterland and the coast, negotiating with the settled farming communities for access to dry-season grazing and saltlicks in the grasslands and coastal plains.

Population growth, the extension of farmland, and growing numbers of livestock have increased conflict over land and natural resources, particularly in areas where herders must negotiate with sedentary farmers for access, where mining operations are established, and where refugees fleeing violence in neighboring countries have relocated. In addition, unregulated commercial logging has expanded, increasing land degradation and deforestation. Many people, including displaced persons, refugees, and migrants to urban areas, have limited access to land. In spite of their substantial role in agriculture, women and former slaves are rarely landowners; they depend on use-rights received through relationships with male relatives and former masters.

Many of Guinea’s formal land laws and policies recognize customary land rights but there remains a distinct gulf between statutory policies and customary practices.

Under the Land Code, rights must be registered, but state land administration institutions lack capacity and resources to support registration or have never been created. The Rural Land Policy calls for formalization of customary rights but lacks implementing regulations and programs. Most of Guinea’s land is unregistered, governed by customary law, and vulnerable to transfer by the state or privatization. Customary rights are recognized within sectoral policies to varying degrees, but are generally limited to use-rights.

Guinea has substantial mineral resources. However, the sector is characterized by corruption and poor management. Mining is responsible for widespread degradation of natural resources, including soil erosion, water pollution, and habitat loss.

Of Guinea’s US$ 3.8 billion GDP in 2008, agriculture comprised 25% of the economy, industry 46%, and services 29% . Poverty in the country is increasing. In 2003 approximately 49% of the population lived below the national poverty line; in 2005, that percentage had increased to 54. Eighty-six percent of the poor live in rural areas, although urban poverty is increasing (World Bank 2009a; GOG 2007).

KEY ISSUES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR INTERVENTIONS

Guinea is a fragile state with political, economic, and social sources of instability. Recent political upheavals have caused donors to focus on humanitarian assistance and programs supporting democratic process and governance until the 2010 elections. As these programs evolve and other programs resume, USAID and other donors may consider building on their prior successes, including programs devoted to: building democratic institutions and supporting good governance; providing capacity-building for local government and community-based organizations; providing technical assistance to the Government of Guinea (GOG) on drafting laws and regulations; and creating community-based resource management groups. All of these areas of program and technical expertise could be extended and deepened to address issues of rights to land and other natural resources.

  • Support a comprehensive land-tenure assessment. Information regarding land tenure in Guinea is extremely limited. The most detailed information comes from a single region (Fouta Djalon) and is more than a decade old. USAID and other donors could fill the significant gap in knowledge by assisting with the design and implementation of a land tenure and property rights assessment.
  • Conduct legal framework analysis. Guinea’s legal framework governing land, forestland, water, and minerals is fragmented and incomplete, and in some cases has lacked implementing regulations and programs. The Land Code was not designed with rural land in mind, and the Rural Land Policy remains largely unimplemented. USAID and other donors could help the GOG identify needs for additional or revised law, fill gaps and close unintended loopholes, and draft implementing regulations and programs.
  • Improve women’s land rights. USAID and other donors have experience working with gender issues in Guinea, especially in the education sector and through governance programs aimed at women’s organizations. Using these programs as a foundation, donors could develop and extend programs to include land-rights education and capacity- building for women’s groups, focused on the identification and assertion of rights, such as in the event of divorce or the death of a spouse. Working with local NGOs or academic institutions, donors could support the design and development of legal aid programs for women that provide public-awareness building, legal literacy campaigns, and technical services to women’s organizations.
  • Strengthen land institutions. Guinea’s legal framework devolves authority over many land issues to Land Commissions and other local entities. The effort to devolve and decentralize land administration has not been successful to date, in large measure due to the lack of capacity within the institutions. USAID and other donors could apply their past experience working directly with governments and community-based organizations in the forestry sector in Guinea to build further local administrative capacity in the forestry sector, and could extend that expertise to the land sector. Special attention could be given to issues regarding the management and administration of farmland and pastures.
  • Extend co-management programs. USAID and other donors have long been engaged in community-based co- management programs for forestland areas in Guinea. Donors could use the current hiatus in program work as an opportunity to evaluate experience, gather lessons learned and best practices, and develop model programs. The programs could be extended throughout the country’s forest areas and potentially reframed to extend to other resources, such as grazing land, land with mineral resources, and water.

SUMMARY

The Republic of Guinea, formerly known as French Guinea, suffers from political, economic, and social instability. The country’s GDP has been stagnant since 2002, with poverty increasing. Following a 2008 coup d’état, Guinea has been governed by a military junta. The U.S. government has suspended all non-humanitarian aid to Guinea, except for programs in support of the democratic process, until the country holds elections. Guinea is bordered by six countries: Cote d’Ivoire Guinea Bissau; Liberia; Mali; Senegal; and Sierra Leone.

Two-thirds of Guinea’s population is rural, and more than 70% of the population works in the agriculture, livestock, fishery, forestry, and mining sectors.

Conflict over rights to land and natural resources is common, particularly in areas where herders compete with sedentary farmers, where mining operations are established, and where refugees fleeing violence in neighboring countries have relocated. Some portions of the population, including displaced people, refugees, and migrants to urban areas, have limited access to land. Women and former slaves are rarely landowners; they depend on use-rights received through relationships with male relatives and former ―masters.

Agriculture is dominated by subsistence-level farming. Population growth and low agricultural productivity have increased pressure on grazing and forestland as local communities struggle to meet needs for fuel, food, and income. Unregulated commercial logging has expanded, increasing land degradation and deforestation.

Many of Guinea’s formal land laws and policies recognize customary land rights but lack implementation. Under the Land Code, rights must be registered, but state land administration institutions lack capacity and resources to support registration. The Rural Land Policy calls for formalization of customary rights but lacks implementing regulations and programs. Most of Guinea’s land is unregistered and governed by customary law: rights to this land are vulnerable to transfer by the state or privatization.

Sustainable water resource management for Guinea is critical. Guinea’s water quality affects every major West African river. Agriculture accounts for 90% of total water withdrawal in the country. Drinking water supply is in poor condition and all water resources are increasingly threatened by human activity and pollution.

Rich in forest resources, Guinea maintains 3 million hectares of forest for conservation of biodiversity and 490,000 hectares for the protection of soil and water. However, cultivation, grazing of domestic animals, hunting, and unregulated harvesting of natural resources in forest areas – coupled with logging, mining, and infrastructure development – have resulted in deforestation.

Guinea has substantial mineral resources, including bauxite, iron ore, gold, diamonds, and uranium. Mining accounts for 90% of the country’s export earnings, and the sector has struggled with corruption and poor internal and environmental management. Women make up 75% of artisan or small-scale mining in Guinea. The mining sector has caused widespread degradation of natural resources, including erosion, destruction of soil, water pollution, and habitat loss. Donors are providing the government with assistance to help reform and manage the sector for the benefit of the country’s population.

Published / Updated: October 2010

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