Liberian Villagers Dismiss Land Grab Accusations, Grant Sime Darby Development Green Light

Liberian Villagers Dismiss Land Grab Accusations, Grant Sime Darby Development Green Light

Malaysian palm oil giant Sime Darby Plantation has finally been granted permissions to develop 5,000 hectares of farm land in Liberia. Despite prior land grab accusations by Environmental lobbyist Friends of the Earth, villagers and Liberian officials witnessed the signing of a memorandum Friday June 28, The Star Online Reported.

Zodua Clan representatives signed the memorandum on behalf on the Liberian community, while project leader Roslin Azmy Hassan signed on behalf of Sime Darby.

The ceremony, which took place at Grand Cape Mount County outlined an agreement in which Sime Darby plans to cultivate palm oil and rubber on 220,000  hectares of land over the next 63 years. According to The Star Online, some locals say that the extremity of the agreement was not clearly communicated.

All Africa reported that Sime Darby entered and will develop the land through a “Zodua land visa,” granted by the people of Zodua Clan. Cooperation with Sime Darby’s plans was influenced only after the company sought permission to take over the land through the Land Commission. The organization helped in facilitating the inclusion of locals whose views were left out of initial documents and planning presented to the Liberian government.

“Whereas, the execution of this MOU is a pre-requisite for the demarcation and survey by the Ministry of Lands, Mines, & Energy of the proposed areas (minimum 5,000 ha, free of all encumbrances and with slope of no more than 20 degrees) agreed upon through a free prior and informed consent process involving the Concessionaire and Zodua Clan,” the memorandum stated.

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Commissioner of Zodua Clan and Grand Cape Mount County Superintendent Hon. Kaison M. Kiadii thanked Sime Darby for their continued interest in the region. Part of the agreement ensures that qualified citizens of Grand Cape — especially people of Zodua Clan — will be considered first for long-term and contractual employment, All Africa reported. The company however will make the decision as to how big the locally hired workforce needs to be.

“We want to thank you Sime Darby for bearing patience with us. It took you [a] long time to get to this point. If you did not have patience, you would have gone with your investment to another place. But we are happy for you to wait this long,” Kiadii said at the ceremony.

Sime Darby has agreed to uphold other deals to build health and educational facilities that will aid the people of Zodua Clan, according to All Africa. The company will also assist in supporting the Zodua Clan Land Management Committee and its governance. Sime Darby is to steer clear of land designated for the livelihood of Zodua Clan citizens.

All Africa concluded their report noting that Hassan is proud that Sime Darby can be considered a “responsible company,” which “respects the views of locals everywhere.”