Monrovia, Liberia – Palm oil companies are grabbing more than 1.5 million acres of land in Liberia and are violating the human rights of local communities, according to Liberian NGOs including Friends of the Earth Liberia.
On the eve of a United Nations meeting in Liberia, that will discuss the future of development in Liberia, Friends of the Earth International is backing the local NGOs' demands for the government to renegotiate contracts for land concessions and reassess its agricultural development strategy.
Malaysian palm oil giant Sime Darby and Indonesian Golden Veloreum have entered into long-term land leases with the Liberian government. Investigations into Sime Darby's operations reveal that communities located in the areas allocated to the company had little warning or consultation before the company moved in. Many of the inhabitants, especially women, say they have lost their farms and food sources, livelihoods, as well as culturally sacred sites to oil palm plantations.
Silas Kpanan'Ayoung Siakor, campaigner for Friends of the Earth Liberia said: "Giving away swathes of fertile agricultural land to foreign companies for large scale plantations will push people further into poverty, as local income generating activities are curtailed and peoples' earning capacities become limited. These plantations undermine Liberia's basic food security and contradict the Liberian Government's own policies on reducing poverty and preventing hunger".
Civil society organisations are also concerned about large scale conversion of primary and secondary forest to palm oil plantations as Sime Darby expands into Gbarpolu county. They are demanding a halt to any further planting and further deforestation and environmental degradation in any of the concession areas.
The UN High Level panel meeting in Monrovia brings together political leaders from around the world, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, to discuss development goals especially in Africa. Friends of the Earth Liberia will be present at this meeting to question the suitability of large scale land concessions as a development strategy in Liberia.
Friends of the Earth France documented Sime Darby and FoE Liberia in Liberia: