October 23, 2018
By Ibrahim Tarawallie
An international civil society organisation, Solidaridad, is currently pioneering land governance in the Makpele Chiefdom, Pujehun District.
According to Country Representative Nicolas Jengre, they were pushing land governance through the creation and implementation of the right policies.
“We have four pillars in our organisation that we look at in our operations. The fourth pillar is about enabling policy and that is where land governance comes in to play,” he said.
When foreign companies come to Sierra Leone to invest, they are faced with serious challenges, especially with regards land use for their operation.
Their failure, sometimes, to engage land owners has led to serious tussle in some parts of the country over the years, not least in Makpele Chiefdom.
The owners of land and other community stakeholders in that chiefdom have been at loggerheads with an organisation called Natural Habitats for several years with regards land lease agreement they were unhappy about.
But the intervention of Solidaridad has helped restore sanity as all the parties are almost in agreement with regards the lease, which has now been streamlined.
Mr. Jengre told his audience during a stakeholder’s engagement at Zimmi on Friday, October 19, that they were happy to partner with Natural Habitat since 2016 to test the country’s land policy because Natural Habitat had inherited a land lease from West African Agriculture II.
He added that there were issues with the lease, the reason Natural Habitat felt there were international standards and national polices they should abide by as a company.
“National Habitat decided to work with us in streamlining the land acquisition process. After several engagements with all stakeholders, understanding has been achieved,” Mr. Jengre noted and disclosed that they are now in the process of commencing a signing because the parties are happy with what has been done with the lease agreement.
He maintained that the main goal of Solidaridad is developing commodity supply chain in agriculture, including oil palm, cocoa and cashew production.
Paramount Chief of Makpele, Saffa Tamu said there had been series of problems with regards land acquisition and investment since 2012.
“I was not at peace since when I assumed office because of land problems but the intervention changed the issue. The organisation has helped to ensure sanity prevail with regards land acquisition,” he said.
Chief Tamu commended Solidaridad for their prompt intervention to help salvage the situation and called on all parties to accept what has been done with the lease agreement for the good of the chiefdom.
Also, Operations Director of Natural Habitat, Sam Mostyn stated that they have been working tirelessly with all those involved in trying to reduce the lease and have a good one for the benefit of all.
“We are fully committed to sustainable, organic oil palm plantation and production. We have eighty ladies on contract watering our plantation,” he said.
Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hon. Philip Tetema Tondoneh said: “Land issue must be opened, transparent and accountable. Under this New Direction, everything should go on straight.”
He urged the people to continue to cooperate with the two organisations for sustainable land governance in the chiefdom.