-reviewed lease agreement signed by land owners
December 14, 2018
By Ibrahim Tarawallie
An international civil society organization, Solidaridad West Africa, has succeeded in resolving the land dispute which has been ongoing for several years between land owners and Natural Habitats Sierra Leone, in the Makpele Chiefdom, Pujehun District.
The intervention of the organization paved the way for the review of the lease agreement inherited by Natural Habitat from West Africa Agriculture II.
Over the years, there has been serious issue with regards land governance in that part of the country. Land owners and the company were in disagreement with regards the lease agreement; especially the 30,700 acres of land being used by the company and the non-adherence to the land policy, which resulted into conflict.
As a way of ensuring peaceful co-existence on the issue, Solidaridad on Wednesday, December 12, 2018, facilitated the official signing of the reviewed master lease agreement of Natural Habitat by land owners in the presence of community and local government stakeholders.
In the reviewed lease agreement, the acreages of land operated by the company have been reduced from the initial 30,700 acres to about 3,000, much to the delight of the people in the chiefdom.
According to the Country Representative of Solidaridad, Nicolas Jengre, land owners were not happy with what was inside the initial lease agreement, which, he said brought about the problem.
He said they were happy that Natural Habitat decided to partner with them to ensure an amicable solution to the problem for sustainable land governance.
“This signing today is very important for all parties. It has been a long journey but a good one. The success is for all that have participated throughout the process of having the lease agreement reviewed and we have achieved what we wanted. I see a clear demonstration of the power of dialogue during this engagement,” he said and expressed hope that what they have done will be replicated in other chiefdoms.
He noted that during their dialogue, they saw the importance of conscious policies and that the country’s land policy seeks to provide clarity in land tenure system and acquisition of land.
He added that some international best practices were integrated into the reviewed lease agreement.
Representing Namati, Baindu Koroma said: “We feel proud today because this is one of the things we stand for as an organization. When we started the tussle, it was not an easy task as we ware accuse by the people of playing double role. We are happy that Natural Habitat accepted all the advice we proffer to them,” she said.
Paramount Chief of Makpele Chiefdom, Saffa Monya Tamu, expressed his delight for the signing of the agreement and appealed for peace to prevail.
“We have been in darkness for years, but we have started seeing light at the end of the tunnel. I want to thank Solidaridad, Namati and Natural Habitat for ushering such peace,” he said.
While assuring that the signing will pave the way for peace among land owners and people in the chiefdom, the paramount chief admonished his subjects to be peaceful in agitating for development.
He added that there was still vast amount of land within the chiefdom for sustainable investment by investors.
Also speaking, Director of Operations for Natural Habitat, Sam Mostynm said: “It’s an historic day, as it entails reducing a big lease into a small one that is acceptable by all. I want to thank Solidaridad and Namati for their support in getting us to this stage.”
Provincial Secretary south, Simeon P. Fatorma, welcomed the signing and implored Natural Habitat to continue engaging the authorities, especially the paramount chief in carrying out their activities.