November 18, 2016 By Joseph S. Margai
National Coordinator of Action for Large-scale Land Acquisition Transparency (ALLAT), Abdulai Bun Wai, has averred that from 2008 to 2010, 1.1 million hectares of land was leased to foreign investments, who mostly invest in oil palm and sugar cane plantations.
The ALLAT Coordinator made the above claim yesterday during two-day training for journalists on the Voluntary Guidelines on the Governance of Tenure (VGGT).
The training which took place at the Police Officers Mess at Kingtom in Freetown was organized by Green Scenery with support from Christian Aid and Welt Hunger Hilfe (WHH).
He noted that civil society organizations (CSOs) have found out that most of the foreign investments did not go through due diligence.
“In most cases, smallholder farmers are forcefully asked out of their lands. The environment is being cleared of vegetation by foreign investors. This sometimes results into conflict between paramount chiefs, farmers and the foreign investors,” he said.
“This was why the CSOs were able to convince the government to sign the Voluntary Guidelines on the Governance of Tenure (VGGT).”
He said the VGGT talks about the governance of tenure on land, fisheries and forest, stating that 5.3 hectares of land, consisting of 75% of the total land in Sierra Leone is arable.
He said ALLAT, which is a combination of 15 civil society organizations, was reviewing the lease agreements of most of the foreign investments and had realized that they were not in line with the VGGT.
“Foreign investment has acquired 13,000 hectares of land to oil palm plantation at Malen chiefdom in Pujehun district. This should be addressed because most of the small-scale farmers are now in conflict with the investors,” he said.
He accused the government of taking the lead in grabbing lands from community people and land owning families, forcing them to sign illegal documents against their wishes.
Advocacy Officer of Green Scenery, Fatmata Salisu, encouraged participants to be comfortable and grasp the understanding of the VGGT so as to enable them publish and broadcast the issue in their various newspapers and radio programmes.