Sime Darby Plantation land conflict, Liberia

Description

The huge land concession granted to Malaysian company Sime Darby by the Government of Liberia in 2009 has generated tension around a lack of consultation, compensation, land ownership and lost livlihoods. The contract covered a massive 311,187 hectares in the counties of Gbarpolu, Grand Cape Mount, Bomi and Bong. It allowed the company to plant oil palm on 220,000 ha of this. In 2010, Sime Darby started operations in western Liberia, with an oil palm nursery. In 2011 it began planting its first oil palm plantation, in Garwula District, Grand Cape Mount County. Affected communities were not consulted. Even those with legal titles to their lands were not consulted, according to some reports. With the loss of land and forest, livelihoods, income and thus social wellbeing and cultural practices face erosion[1]. Communities laid a complaint with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in 2010. Producers in Liberia adhere to RSPO, which was launched in 2003 by the World Wildlife Fund and industry members. In late 2011, RSPO upheld a complaint by Liberian villagers against Sime Darby. Subsequent negotiations between the grower and villagers are ongoing[2]. But in a human rights analysis of the contract, the Forest Peoples Programme argues that the Government of Liberia has failed in its obligation to ensure the human rights of communities are protected[3].

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Basic Data
NameSime Darby Plantation land conflict, Liberia
CountryLiberia
ProvinceGrand Cape Mount County
SiteGarwula District
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional 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
Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Specific CommoditiesPalm oil
Rubber
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsSime Darby Plantation Liberia aims to develop 120,000 ha of the land in the first 11 years, and to have the whole area developed by 2030, with the creation of 35,000 jobs. The first palm oil is expected in 2014, and production levels of 10,800 tonnes are forecast for 2015. The first oil production unit should be built in 2013. About 90% of the palm oil produced will be for export. Sime Darby, one of the world leaders in palm oil, produces 2.4 million tonnes of crude palm oil, with 1 million tonnes of this certified as sustainable[3].

Project Area (in hectares)220000
Level of Investment (in USD)3,100,000,000 (over 15 years)
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date2009
Company Names or State EnterprisesSime Darby from Malaysia
Sime Darby Plantation Liberia (SDLP) from Liberia
Permodalan Nasional Berhad from Malaysia - Malaysias national investment and Employees Provident Fund, main shareholder of Sime Darby
Nestle from Switzerland - as the main buyers of Sime Darby palm oil
Unilever from Netherlands - as the main buyers of Sime Darby palm oil
Relevant government actorsMinistry of Agriculture, Ministry of Land, Mines and Energy, Inter-Ministerial Committee on Sime Darby, Environmental Protection Agency
International and Financial InstitutionsOCBC Bank Singapore (OCBC) from Singapore
CIMB from Malaysia
HSBC (banking) from Hong Kong SAR, China
Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ (5) from Japan
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersGreen Advocates, Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), Forest Peoples Programme, Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), Save My Future Foundation
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Forms of MobilizationStrikes
Threats to use arms
Threats of legal action and resistance.
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Global warming, Soil erosion
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
OtherDestruction of burial areas.

Residents of Grand Cape Mount County report having to travel to Monrovia to purchase food supplies, whereas they were previously able to supply

themselves with sustenance through farming activities[4].
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Institutional changes
Migration/displacement
Negotiated alternative solution
Strengthening of participation
The loss of land without consent has caused a great deal of anger. Communities have called for renegotiation of the contract and threats of violence have been made.
Development of AlternativesThere have been calls for those affected to be able to participate in decision making and for this to be legislated in a fair and just manner. Communities see an urgent review by an independent assessment of the process as important, want their land rights recognised, compensation to be made and land returned where necessary[6].
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.While the Government of Liberia has acknowledged errors in the contract with Sime Darby, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has also called on communities, who continue to bear the negative effects of the plantation development. to respect the terms of the agreement, suggesting that there will be no change to the conditions of the contract.
Sources and Materials
Legislations

Public Lands Act (19721973)

Constitution of Liberia (Article 7 makes it the duty of the Liberian government to ensure participation of communities in managing natural resources)

Community Rights Law of 2009

References

[1] Siakor, Silas KpananAyoung (2012). Uncertain Futures: The impacts of Sime Darby on communities in Liberia. Available at: Accessed 28 January 2013.
[click to view]

[2] Chaon, Anne (2013). Liberian farmers take on Indonesian palm oil giant. Available at: Accessed 28 January 2013.
[click to view]

[3] Lomax, Tom (2012). Human rights-based analysis of the agricultural concession agreements between Sime Darby and Golden Veroleum and the Government of Liberia. Available at: Accessed 4 February 2013.
[click to view]

[4] Agritrade (2011). Malaysian group Sime Darby invests in palm oil in Liberia. Available at: Accessed 28 January 2013.
[click to view]

Columbia University (2012). The Social Impact of Foreign Direct Investment in Liberia. Available at Accessed 29 January 2013.
[click to view]

[6] Lomax, Tom, Kenrick, Justin and Brownell, Alfred (2012). Conflict or consent: the palm oil sector at a crossroads. Available at: Accessed 4 February 2013.
[click to view]

[5] Center for International Conflict Resolution,

Links

Letter of complaint to Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) from members and inhabitants of affected local communities within the proposed Sime Darby 220,000 ha oil palm concession in Liberia, October 2011. Available at: Accessed 4 February 2013.
[click to view]

Liberia: Statement And Declaration By Affected Community Members From Sime Darby And Golden Veroleum Concessions On Oil Palm Development (2012). Available at: Accessed 28 January 2013.
[click to view]

Morris, Keith (2012). Govt. admits errors in Sime Darby agreement. Available at: Accessed 4 Febryar 2013.
[click to view]

Simpson, Chris (2012). Liberia: The plantation blues. Available at: Accessed 29 January 2013.
[click to view]

Media Links

PressTVGlobalNews (2012). Is Liberia land grab by foreign firms sowing seed of future conflict? Available at: Accessed 3 February 2013.
[click to view]

Allafrica (2012). Plantation blues in Liberia. Available at: Accessed 5 February 2013.
[click to view]

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ContributorPatrick Burnett
Last update08/04/2014
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