Thursday, May 08, 2014

Liberia - When our land is free, we’re all free

On 6-8 May 2014 agribusiness corporations are courting African governments at the Grow Africa Investment Forum in Abuja, Nigeria to 'further accelerate sustainable agricultural growth in Africa'.
Corporations’ interest in agriculture in Africa has certainly accelerated corporate control of land and seeds but done little to support agriculture that will feed the continent. Rather than support family farming and smallholder agriculture private sector investment in agriculture has resulted in grabbing land from communities; the land which they farm sustainably and rely on for their survival.

Communities are resisting this corporate takeover of their land and they are winning. All over Africa people are sending a clear message to their governments; stop selling Africa to corporations. The Jogbahn Clan in Liberia is one such community and here is their story.

The Jogbahn Clan is celebrating a victory as the President of Liberia has now recognised their right to say no Equatorial Palm Oil (EPO) a British palm oil company grabbing their land. This is no small feat in a country where over 50% of the land has been given to a corporation without the consent of the communities who customarily own the land. 
Despite the President's commitment EPO has still not recognised that the Clan has said no to their operations. They are operating as if things are business as usual and conducting studies of the Clan’s land in preparation for clearing. Land clearance and other preparatory activities would be unlawful, as they do not respect communities’ right to give or withhold their Free Prior and Informed Consent, which is a requirement provided for under both national law and international law.

But the Clan are not discouraged and they continue their resistance for the hope of a better future; “We want the government to support us to be self-sufficient on our land instead of giving it to a company who will just take the money and go home. Instead we can keep the money in Liberia and we can live better lives” said Garmondeh Benwon (R).

Every year, an area five times the land size of Liberia is grabbed from communities around the world. The Jogbahn Clan show that stopping it is possible when communities stand together, mobilise and resist. The government has recognised their right to say no now EPO and KLK, their majority shareholder, must do the same.

No comments: