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Sierra Leone Agriculture (SIVA Group) biopalm project in Port Loko, Sierra Leone


Sierra Leone Agriculture (SLA) signed a 50-year lease in May of 2010 for 41,582 ha for the development of palm oil for biofuels, displacing over 30,000 residents and farmers in the Port Loko district, Sierra Leone. At the time of signing, SLA was a subsidiary of UK-based Caparo Group, which is owned by Baron Swraj Paul, an Indian-born, British-based business magnate and Labour politician close to former Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The project planned to establish palm oil plantations on 40,000 ha by 2017, as well as associated biofuel plants, nurseries, and infrastructure. In 2011 SLA was purchased by SIVA Group for US$5 million, thereby transferring the lease to the gigantic Indian-owned company. No information about the deal was given to the local communities, and communication continues to be vague and contradictory. For example, the Oakland Institute (OI) reports village chiefs understand the lease to be renewed every 7 years, but the Crad-l (owner of initial lease, now defunct) website reports a lease of 50 years. 8,500 jobs were promised, but as of October 2012 only 600 were working, mostly casual and without contracts. An outgrower scheme may or may not exist, as well as additional intentions to expand to another 20,000 ha. Specific details are not listed on the company’s website. Additionally, the Minister of Agriculture of Sierre Leone said he has never heard of SLA – indeed OI reports SLA negotiated directly with local chiefs, therefore bypassing the national government (and its’ regulations), and neither landowners nor local people have copies of the lease. Since the lease was negotiated without the input of the national government, an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment was never done for the SLA lease. The current status of the project is unknown.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Sierra Leone Agriculture (SIVA Group) biopalm project in Port Loko, Sierra Leone
Country:Sierra Leone
State or province:Northern Province
Location of conflict:Bureh Kasseh Maconteh Chiefdom, Port Loko district
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Agro-fuels and biomass energy plants
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Ethanol
Palm oil
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The lease is for 50 years, but is eligible to be renewed for an additional 21, and again for 7 (total 99 years). The project is expected to produce 85,000 cubic meters of ethanol annually for the national grid. The project entails a nursery (capacity for one million seedlings), an additional outdoor nursery, and 35,000 ha total to be planted with oil palm. Although the MAFFS guidelines state the investor shall pay US$12 per ha per year, since the agreement did not go through the National Government the deal is not held to these standards. At last mention SLA pays $2 ha/year.

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Project area:41,580
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:32,170
Start of the conflict:2010
Company names or state enterprises:Sierra Leone Agriculture from Sierra Leone
Geoffpalm from Malaysia
Biopalm Energy from Singapore
Biopalm Star Oil from Singapore
SIVA Group from India
Relevant government actors:Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Oakland Institute,, ActionAid,, Green scenery,, Christian Aid,
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageUnknown
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession
Potential: Militarization and increased police presence
Project StatusUnknown
Conflict outcome / response:Migration/displacement
Proposal and development of alternatives:A report from Christian Aid has the following recommendations, including a binding regulatory framework (based on international guidelines for responsible agricultural investment) for foreign investment in farmland that emphasises protection of local people and the environment, limiting leases to 1,000-2,000 ha, and binding compensation for all crops, trees and important resources based on the real value of each over its productive life span. Until such recommendations are applied, the report calls for an immediate moratorium on large-scale investment in farmland in Sierra Leone.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The project appears to be moving forward, although it is unclear.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Sierra Leone Environmental Protection Act (2008)

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Oakland Institute, 2011, 'Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa – Country Report: Sierra Leone'
[click to view]

[click to view]

Action for Large-scale Land Acquisition Transparency (ALLAT), 2013, 'Who is Benefitting?'

[click to view]

Crad-l website, archived
[click to view]

, 'Billionaires at play in the fields of the poor (part 5): Chinnakannan Sivasankaran',
[click to view]

Oakland Institute, 'Meet the Millionaries and billionaries suddlenly buying tons of land in Africa'
[click to view]

Other comments:The lease may be found under CAPARO Group from 2003-2011, then SIVA or Geoff Palm (Sierra Leone) Limited until present. It may be labeled as SLA throughout the company control changes.
Meta information
Contributor:Aliza Tuttle
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:127
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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