6 May 2014

Africa: Resistance to Liberia Landgrabs a Warning to Africa Investment Conference

Abuja (nigeria) / Monrovia (liberia) — On the opening day of a 6-8 May conference in Abuja aimed at attracting private sector agricultural investment in Africa [1], Friends of the Earth International and the Sustainable Development Institute / Friends of the Earth Liberia are warning governments and investors that any investment must respect communities' rights and ownership of land.

The non-governmental groups are also drawing attention to the struggle of communities in Liberia who are successfully resisting a UK company grabbing their land. [2]

"Landgrabbing by corporations in Africa is rising fast because governments and companies still promote investments that grab land and resources from communities. Fortunately, communities are successfully standing up to land grabs and for their rights, for instance right now in Liberia," said Kirtana Chandrasekaran, Friends of the Earth International food sovereignty program coordinator.

The recent overturning of UK company Equatorial Palm Oil's access to the Jogbahn Clan's customary land in Liberia is a warning to all governments and investors that they must respect communities' rights and ownership of land, according to Friends of the Earth International. [3]

"Governments must promote investments in smallholder agriculture to feed local people rather than selling Africa to corporations," added Kirtana Chandrasekaran.

After months of negotiations and advocacy by community members in Liberia, the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) / Friends of the Earth Liberia and international partners, President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf recently committed to supporting communities in protecting their land -just over 20,000 hectares- from further encroachment by Equatorial Palm Oil (EPO).

Despite the Presidential statement, Equatorial Palm Oil has continued to conduct studies of the Clan's land in preparation for clearing. However the communities are standing firm.

"The action from our Government is a positive step forward for communities here in Liberia where fifty percent of the land has been leased to corporations. Hopefully, this marks the beginning of a progressive practice where communities' voices are really heard and their rights respected," said Friends of the Earth Liberia campaigner Silas Kpanan'Ayoung Siakor.

"Equatorial Palm Oil must listen to the Jogbahn Clan and accept that their 'no' means 'no'. The success and continuing determination of these communities is a cautionary tale for corporations who think they can ignore communities' rights and ownership of land," he added.

Copyright © 2014 Friends of the Earth. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.