Green Scenery boss urges ‘Journalists must take land grabbing issue seriously’

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June 1, 2018

By Hassan Gbassay Koroma

Green
Participants and organisers at the training pose for a photo

Executive Director of Green Scenery, Joseph Rahall, has called on journalists to take very seriously issues of land grabbing by large scale international investment companies operating in Sierra Leone.

Rahall made the call on Wednesday at the conference hall of the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone on King Haman Road in Freetown during a two-day training in investigative journalism for journalists on land grabbing, sponsored by Irish Aid through Christian Aid.

The training was aimed at helping journalists acquire basic knowledge, track progress and follow up on the implementation of the National Land Policy and Voluntary Guidelines of Responsible Government of Tenure (VGGT) framework in Sierra Leone.

The training was further aimed at building the capacity of journalists to monitor and report on the activities and operations of foreign direct investment in Sierra Leone as well as capacitate participants on how to unearth land governance related cases and bring to the attention of policy decision makers for action.

Also, the organisers say the training aimed at giving background information to journalists on the conceptual framework of the IAPG support project and its relevance to land governance in the country and to also build a media network on information sharing on land rights and debate on sensitive gender land rights issues.

The Green Scenery boss observed that journalists have a great role to play in building and promoting communities, adding that they could also break communities as well if people are not well informed.

Rahall said they have conducted several investigative journalism trainings on land grabbing issues across the country with their focus mainly on land, which they believe has been taken away from poor people.

He averred that monies from companies meant for communities and land owners never reach them, but are eaten by a few corrupt people.

Project Coordinator at Green Scenery, Mohamed E.J. Kargbo, said that in recent years Sierra Leone has experienced rapid growth in foreign direct investment in agriculture, and that many foreign direct investors are interested in agricultural investment in the country.
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Kargbo noted that the rapid growth of large-scale land acquisition in the country cannot be overemphasized, adding that large-scale land investment was one of the most pressing issues that affect the lives of people in Sierra Leone, which has created negative consequences on the lives of the rural poor, creating tensions and poverty.

He observed that the phenomenon has been described as ‘land grabbing’ – a process that undermines rights and affects the lives of local communities who bear the bulk of the costs, while reaping few of the benefits of the transaction.

He said Green Scenery is implementing a five–year Pro-Poor Land Governance Project geared towards promoting land governance, human rights and accountability of large-scale land investment, adding that the intervention is supported by Irish Aid through Christian Aid.

He said the objective of the project is to contribute to the reduction of poverty by improving food and livelihood security, through respect and protection of tenure rights of land owners and users.

In his statement, Country Programme and Policy Manager at Christian Aid Sierra Leone, Mattia Koi Dimoh, said they are delighted to partner with Green Scenery and support the project to ensure that civil society organisations acquire skills that able them to engage effectively in the critical objectives they worked on.

Dimoh reiterated that the two key objectives of the project are accountable and health governance, adding that their partnership with Green Scenery is in line with their key objective of accountable governance.

He said his organisation mobilises civil society organisations to work with communities in addressing the foundational causes of poverty.

He revealed that they currently work with four agencies and that Green Scenery works on land acquisition, while the others work on gender, health and budget monitory and tracking.

He said their work with Green Scenery is directed in the area of ensuring transparency and accountability in the way big or large cooperatives are acquiring and utilising lands in the country.

He said the media training is part of the implementation of the project with Green Scenery, which will assure that investigative journalists help affected communities improve their lot as the media has a critical role to play because land issues are human rights, accountability and peace issues that could lead to disputes if not handled properly.

Green Scenery is a non-governmental organisation that campaigns for environmental management, human rights and natural resource governance.