Equatorial Palm Oil project stalls in Bassa, Liberia

Description

In 2008 the Parliament of Liberia gave Equatorial Palm Oil three concessions for 50 years between Buchanan and Greenville, totaling 169,000 ha (7 years of rehabilitation followed by 43 years, starting in 2015, of operations). In February 2011, the companys Liberian palm-oil plantations and assets (under the company Equatorial Biofuels Limited) were incorporated into a 50-50 joint venture with Liberian Palm Developments Limited and Biopalm Energy Energy, a Singaporean company controlled by Indian billionaire C. Sivasankaran (SIVA group), which has recently acquired other large-scale palm-oil concessions in Cameroon and Sierra Leone. The company cleared 34,398 hectares of land for the development of oil palms, pushing many smallholders off their land in 2011 with the planting of the first new oil palms.

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Basic Data
NameEquatorial Palm Oil project stalls in Bassa, Liberia
CountryLiberia
ProvinceSinoe, Gran Bassa, River Cess Counties
SiteTarsue Township, Palm Bay
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Agro-fuels and biomass energy plants
Ports and airport projects
Specific CommoditiesPalm oil
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsGoal: 250,000 tonnes (oil palm) per annum, an oil mill (imported from Malaysia), and a port near in Buchanan, with 3,000 ha of existing palm oil to be reinstated and 1,200 to be planted anew. The land involved was originally leased to LIBINCO in 1965, but after the war in 2003 the lease was taken over by EPO. Following a call from the Grand Bassa County Legislative Caucus to obstruct the resurvey 250 employees of EPO lost their jobs.

Project Area (in hectares)169,0000
Level of Investment (in USD)100,000,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population250
Start Date2008
Company Names or State EnterprisesEquatorial Palm Oil
SIVA Group from India
Biopalm Energy from Singapore
Relevant government actorsLiberian Ministry of Agriculture, Grand Bassa County Legislative Caucus
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersSustainable Development Institute (SDI) Liberia
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Women
Workers of Equatorial Palm Oil
Forms of MobilizationStreet protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Strikes
Threats to use arms
Citizens requested Green Advocates to pass their complaints to EPO, but as of September 2013 no formal complaint has been registered.
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Militarization and increased police presence
Outcome
Project StatusUnder construction
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCriminalization of activists
Migration/displacement
Repression
Under negotiation
Development of AlternativesSolicit the input of those affected, halt development.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Although the expansion process is momentarily halted, damage to the water system and livelihoods of locals is completed, as are over 1200 ha of plantings. In April of 2013 the locals asked Green Advocates to communicate their complaints to EPO, but no formal document could be found concerning the findings from this study.
Sources and Materials
Legislations

New Forest Law

References

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European Union External Action, 2011, 'Support to the Land Commission to elaborate the land inventory of Liberia and to create a model for participatory territorial planning'

Links

, 'Land Grab in Sinoe County: Equatorial Palm Oil Company accused by locals'
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Liberia: Fertile ground for ambitious Equatorial Palm Oil - See more at:
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All Africa, 'Liberia: Company Resurvey resisted in Grand Bassa'
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Inter press service, 'The Bitter Taste of Liberia's Palm Oil Plantations'
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Reuters, 'EPO Joing Venture Liberian Palm Developments ltd to Secure 140 Million Financing Facility'
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All Africa, 'Liberia: Riots and Palm Bay – Nine Arrested in Bassa'
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Projets dextension de Palmeraies existantes en Liberia

Other CommentsInter Press Service: 'The people came, they destroyed our bush, our living. Even the creek, the water we drink – they damaged it,' says an angry Joe Bah, chief of Boegbor

Inter Press Service 'The young people, the women and chiefs were not consulted (about the expansion), so we resisted. But the National Traditional Council still maintains its position and says that as far as they are concerned, the President of the Republic of Liberia has given this land to (EPO) … and anybody (who speaks out against it) will be arrested,' (Isaac Gartaryon, president of the youth in the distrct) says.

Reuters: Liberian Palm Developments has appointed the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) to assist them in a $140 million finance to build a port off Buchanan for their palm oil ventures.
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ContributorAliza Tuttle
Last update24/06/2014
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