The NEWS (Monrovia)

Liberia: Sime Darby Agrees to Pay U.S. One Million

Negotiations between Sime Darby Plantation and residents of communities affected by its operations in Cape Mount County is gaining fruits, as the Malaysian based oil palm producer has agreed to pay reparations, including the creation of a Cultural Endowment Fund for affected communities.

The operations of Sime Darby, the world's largest producer of certified sustainable palm oil ran into trouble in Liberia, when it started clearing farmlands, cash crops and shrines without the prior consent of local communities.

The company was challenged and dragged to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in Malaysia by Green Advocates International for violating the rights of the local communities.

The RSPO is a non-profit consortium of stakeholders from the palm oil industry set up to develop and implement global standards for producing palm oil sustainably.

The RSPO halted Sime Darby operations and requested it to dialogue with the locals.

Sime Darby's Head of Communications for Europe and Africa Carl Dagenhart on Saturday announced that the company has accepted a proposal from Cllr. Alfred Brownell, lawyer of the affected communities that a Cultural Endowment Funds for sixteen communities whose shrines were destroyed be established.

Mr. Dagenhart made the disclosure during a meeting with representatives of the affected areas and the 'Project Affected Communities' near the company facilitates in Cape Mount.

Project Affected Communities is a group setup by the various communities to spearhead the negotiation with Sime Darby.

Mr. Dagenhart said that the company has agreed to provide US$6 per hectares for 3,300 hectares of developed land for the next 60 years as compensation for sacred site bulldozed by Sime Darby.

This suggests that Sime Darby would pay US$ 19, 800 annually to the local communities and a little over US$ 1 million for 60 years.

Speaking further Mr. Dagenhart noted that the price would be adjusted based on inflation throughout the 60 years of concession agreement.

Responding to a request from the communities, Mr. Dagenhart promised that Sime Darby would look for money to pay for ten or more years in advance.

The oil palm producer also agreed to provide each of the 16 communities a pair of breeding sheep as a source of protein. It was agreed that the sheep were not to be slaughtered.

Speaking further, Mr. Dagenhart disclosed that the company has agreed to provide one bag of 50kg rice to residents of the 17 affected towns who are 60 years and above for five months.

Disable people in the communities would also benefit from the rice donation, which would start on December 1st, 2012.

In the area of water and sanitation, Sime Darby also agreed to construct four additional hand pumps during the dry seasons and ensure that all pumps in the areas are functional.

The company also agreed to provide five scholarships to citizens of the affected communities and to construct an office in Ballah Town for the Project Affected Communities.

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