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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.

Upon finding their farms bulldozed, gravesites desecrated, and further project construction, citizens lodged complaints of polluted drinking water and lack of social agreement or MoU. Nine workers were arrested in a strike/protest-turned riot in April of 2013 when 250 workers claimed they were not paid. The riot resulted in 700 burned trees, arson, and crippled machinery.

ENO began expansion into district four in Grand Bassa County in Spring 2013. in August 2013 local governments urged their citizens to obstruct resurveys needed for continued expansion. A fact-finding team discovered EPO had refused to adhere to its corporate social commitments, which has triggered the dispute between the company and the locals. The district youth council has ordered EPO halt its extension program, and has asked the County Legislative Caucus for urgent intervention.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Equatorial Palm Oil project stalls in Bassa, Liberia
Country:Liberia
State or province:Sinoe, Gran Bassa, River Cess Counties
(municipality or city/town)Tarsue Township, Palm Bay
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict: 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Land acquisition conflicts
Agro-fuels and biomass energy plants
Ports and airport projects
Specific commodities:
Palm oil

Project Details and Actors

Project details:

Goal: 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:169,0000
Level of Investment:100,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:250
Start of the conflict:2008
Company names or state enterprises:Equatorial Palm Oil
SIVA Group from India
Biopalm Energy from Singapore
Relevant government actors:Liberian Ministry of Agriculture, Grand Bassa County Legislative Caucus
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) Liberia

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Women
Workers of Equatorial Palm Oil
Forms of mobilization:Street 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 of the project

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-economical 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
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Migration/displacement
Repression
Under negotiation
Development of alternatives:Solicit the input of those affected, halt development.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain: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

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

New Forest Law

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

http://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/liberia/documents/press_corner/201212_addendum_final_report_en.pdf

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 to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

, 'Land Grab in Sinoe County: Equatorial Palm Oil Company accused by locals'
Farmlandgrab.org

Liberia: Fertile ground for ambitious Equatorial Palm Oil - See more at:
http://farmlandgrab.org/post/view/14593

http://www.formesdufoncier.org/pdfs/LiberiaPalmes.pdf

http://farmlandgrab.org/post/view/21076

All Africa, 'Liberia: Company Resurvey resisted in Grand Bassa'
http://allafrica.com/stories/201308140486.html

Inter press service, 'The Bitter Taste of Liberia's Palm Oil Plantations'
http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/05/the-bitter-taste-of-liberias-palm-oil-plantations/

Reuters, 'EPO Joing Venture Liberian Palm Developments ltd to Secure 140 Million Financing Facility'
http://www.reuters.com/finance/stocks/PALO.L/key-developments/article/2692340

Projets dextension de Palmeraies existantes en Liberia

All Africa, 'Liberia: Riots and Palm Bay – Nine Arrested in Bassa'
http://allafrica.com/stories/201304020472.html

Other comments:Inter 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.

Meta information

Contributor:Aliza Tuttle
Last update24/06/2014