Point of Beginning

The Widow Mary Gargar Meets the Global Positioning System (GPS)

March 9, 2010
To fight the cycle of poverty in rural areas, Liberia's government is working with several NGO partners to collect deeds and land records, increase the number of trained land surveyors and put a national system in place for land registration. In addition, surveyors (and land owners) will have a new tool in hand: global positioning systems. 

Janes Wales The Huffington Post
Posted: March 4, 2010 05:06 PM

Huffingtonpost.com: Sitting on a ramshackle assortment of wooden benches under the shade of a mango tree, we listen to the story of the widow Mary Gargar. An elderly and weathered Liberian woman with a look of determination just short of defiance, Mrs. Gargar tells us of how she purchased land from a man falsely representing himself as its rightful owner. Now that the war is over, a reverend who the government confirms is the rightful owner has returned and wants to build. While she holds a deed for the land in her name, and depends on its crops for survival, he too needs the land for his livelihood. How are they to resolve the dispute and meet their competing needs? 

Land disputes are a recurring theme in the developing world and are at the root of much violent conflict. For the majority of the world's poor, poverty is predominantly a rural issue. More than three quarters of those who live on just one or two dollars each day still live in the countryside. Living further from commercial centers, schools and health facilities and outside the range of many government and social services, the rural poor lack access to the inputs and infrastructure necessary for development. Residence in rural areas exacerbates poverty on nearly every level.

In Liberia, nearly 60 percent of the population is rural. Fourteen years of civil war devastated the physical infrastructure and destroyed what little access to systems and services that Liberia's rural poor once enjoyed. Slowly, however, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's government is working with partners to rebuild, increasing access to the inputs critical for development.

What role can philanthropists play in creating the conditions necessary for wide-spread economic growth in rural areas? While the challenges facing the rural poor are daunting, there are three key areas where strategic giving by private philanthropists can make a difference: agriculture, legal systems and education. ...

To read the rest of the story, click to www.huffingtonpost.com/jane-wales/the-widow-mary-gargar-mee_b_485759.html.