Resistance to Liberia landgrabs a warning to Africa investment conference

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FoEI and SDI | 6 May 2014

The Jogbahn Clan of Liberia see the land as vital in providing for future generations; “I am going to live on my land to develop it for my children’s children so they live longer and have a better life” Ceedah Framer (L). (Photo: Jason Taylor/Friends of the Earth)


Resistance to Liberia landgrabs a warning to Africa investment conference

ABUJA (NIGERIA) / MONROVIA (LIBERIA), 6 May 2014 – 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.


FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT

Silas Kpanan'Ayoung Siakor, campaigner, Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) / Friends of the Earth Liberia +231 (0) 880 655712 (Liberia) or +44 7405 629077 or [email protected]

Jacinta Fay, landgrab campaigner, Friends of the Earth International
+231 (0) 77 00 01 452 / +231 (0) 88 05 93 133 (Liberia) or [email protected]

Kirtana Chandrasekaran, Friends of the Earth International food sovereignty program coordinator + 30 693 8131226 or email [email protected]


NOTES TO EDITORS

PHOTOS of Joghban Clan members, their land and their celebrations are available at http://cargocollective.com/sdiliberia

VIDEO of Joghban Clan members, their land and their celebrations is available at http://vimeo.com/94112823

[1] The May 6-8 Grow Africa Investment Forum states that it wants to provide an opportunity for companies, farmers and governments to accelerate agricultural growth in Africa. It focuses on  attracting investments, especially from the private sector. Grow Africa Investment Forum is connected to the 7 - 9 May World Economic Forum on Africa, also held in Abuja.
For more information: http://growafrica.com/events/gaif14-abuja-nigeria

[2] Land grabbing occurs when land that was previously used by local communities is leased or sold to outside investors, including corporations and governments.

[3] For more information: 
May 2014 media briefing on Equatorial Palm Oil (EPO) online at http://www.foei.org/journalistic-resources/the-joghban-clan-in-liberia/media-briefing-on-equitorial-palm-oil-epo-in-liberia

Original source: FOEi
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