Liberian Farmers Fight For Land Overtaken by ‘Indonesian Palm Oil Giant’

Liberian Farmers Fight For Land Overtaken by ‘Indonesian Palm Oil Giant’

From Capital FM

Liberian farmers who survived a 15-year civil war are now fighting lucrative property deals with Indonesian and Malaysian palm oil companies that threaten the land they live on, if not their sacred burial sites.

Thirty hours by car from the capital Monrovia, the green and yellow flag of Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL), an Indonesian palm oil giant, floats over deforested hills in Sinoe County, southern Liberia.
Local farmer Benedict Smarts looked at the scene, and said: “We are not against development – but we want to be heard, we want respect – we want those people to listen to us.”

In 2010, GVL acquired a 63-year lease on 220,000 hectares (544,000 acres) of land to produce palm oil.
It pays annual rent of $1.50 (1.10 euros) per hectare for virgin forest land and $5.00 per hectare for cleared terrain in the lease which is renewable for an additional 30 years.

Palm oil is used for cooking in parts of Africa, Brazil and Southeast Asia, and is an ingredient in soaps and washing powders. GVL’s lease was signed in Monrovia, without the presence of representatives from those who live in Sinoe County. In the village of Plu, on the plantation’s outskirts, inhabitants showed letters of complaint sent to the Liberian interior ministry.

“The Indonesians came here for the first time in September 2010,” resident Benedict Manewah explained.
“They said: ‘We have a concession agreement, your president has sold it to us’.

“Three months later they came back … and they started to destroy the properties, farmlands, crops, livestock and houses.”

Manewah listed the crops he had planted. “I had rubber trees, cassavas, breadfruits, orange trees, cocoas, coconuts and palm trees” for his family’s personal consumption.

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