“Sierra Leone’s lands are under attack”

0
112

…ALLAT National Coordinator

 May 19, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai

allat
ALLAT’s National Coordinator, Abdulai Bun Wai
natinoal
group photo of participants

National Coordinator, Action for Large-scale Land Acquisition Transparency (ALLAT), Abudulai Bun Wai, has observed that lands in Sierra Leone were under attack from multi-national investment companies.

He made the above statement on Tuesday during a two-day training of journalists on the just launched National Land Policy at Beacon Lodge in Bo, Southern Sierra Leone.

“Sierra Leone has been earmarked as one of the 10 countries in the world that has been targeted by multi-national companies. Most of the land deals and agreements signed by government on behalf of people do not benefit landowners. This has led to so many land conflicts in the country,” he said.

He disclosed that 20 percent of the aerial lands have been leased to multi-national companies, leaving the people, whose livelihood depends on their lands, to suffer.

 “The people’s land rights are under threat and if no action is taken, situation would soon get out of hands. These multi-national companies are having a “field day” in our country. In most cases, when the landowners raise their voice against their excesses, they are attacked, imprisoned, and criminalized,” he noted.

He cited an instance where a farmer was recently hit and killed by a vehicle, while on his motor bike heading for his farm.

 “This man was left with no option but to go to a neighbouring chiefdom to cultivate crops because his land was forcefully removed from him and given to a multi-national company,” he said.

The ALLAT Coordinator urged journalists to be part of the campaign to save Sierra Leone’s lands from threat of multi-national investments.

 “You are not working for ALLAT but for the good of all Sierra Leoneans. You should dig out what is going on with regards land deals. This is the second time that we have engaged journalists. The first engagement was training on the Voluntary Guidelines on the Governance of Tenure (VGGT) in Freetown,” he stated.

Senior District Officer (SDO) of Bo district, Prince Sorieba, said the time was now to look at how land is acquired and managed in Sierra Leone, adding that there are statutory and customary laws guiding the way land should be acquired and managed, but were not implemented.

“We are not against multi-national investments but it should be done in the interest of the people. The way multi-national companies are acquiring large-scale of land for agriculture and other projects is becoming worrisome,” he said.

 “There is an urgent need to look at our land tenure system with a view of improving on it.”

Representing Welt Hunger Hilfe (WHH), Emurana K. Sowa, said there was a misinformation that 5.2 hectares of land was unused by  farmers in Sierra Leone, hence  the reason for the advent of multi-national investment companies in the country.

“The key information was that the lands were utilized, but were not used effectively and efficiently, because there were no resources for farmers to embark on mechanized farming,” he said.

 “The training will give journalists broader view on how to report on land issues and also serves as voice for the voiceless farmers, who are mostly smallholders but are contributing about 70% to the food we eat.”

Dr. Alphajoh Cham, Deputy Director, Planning, Policy and Research Development in the Ministry of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment, said Sierra Leone has dual land tenure system.

 “The general law which allows for freehold and leasehold in the Western Area and legal recognition of customary tenure system in the provinces,” he said.

Before the advent of the National Land Policy, he said, there were no clear land policies, although there was outdated land legislation with weak enforcement and monitoring.

“At that time, there was an inequitable access to land. There was also large-scale land acquisition, especially when there was corporate land grabbing for industrial and commercial investments,” he said.

He said the National Land Policy now aspires to move towards a clearer, more effective and just land tenure, and that it is a system that would provide for social and public demands and stimulate responsible investments.

Highlighting the objectives of the National Land Policy, Dr. Cham said it will ensure tenure security and protect land rights, regardless of the form of the land tenure system.

 “It will also promote equitable access without any form of discrimination.”

He disclosed that the Policy will be implemented for a period of 10 years, of which the first phase has already begun in 2017 to 2020, while the second would start from 2021 to 2027.