Palm oil giant Golden Veroleum (GVL) has bulldozed religious sites in southeast Liberia and has paid police armed with assault rifles to protect its plantations, a new Global Witness exposé has revealed.
This comes fifteen months after the campaigns group published allegations that Liberians had been beaten, threatened and arrested for taking a stand against GVL, which accelerated its expansion at the height of Liberia’s Ebola outbreak. (1) GVL has bought the rights to convert 2,600 km2 of Liberia into an oil palm estate – an area the size of London and Barcelona combined. The company’s contract is valid for up to 98 years, currently affecting some 41,000 people.
According to the environmental watch organization, these fresh revelations coincide with the publication of the first ever economic analysis of palm oil development in Liberia, which suggests that continued expansion under the current model could do the country more harm than good. The study, by economists at Sync Consult, found that converting community land into plantations left those impacted an average of three times worse off. (2)
Global Witness has been calling for Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to rethink the country’s approach to agriculture, which she has made a cornerstone of the country’s development strategy based on the belief that it will lift poverty in rural areas. Ten percent of Liberia is already earmarked for plantations, but expansion has happened in a legal vacuum – there are still no laws governing how agriculture companies should operate or be held to account.
“Our investigations show that Golden Veroleum is at it again in Liberia – intimidating communities through the threat of force. This time the company has also destroyed what’s most sacred to the people who have traditionally owned this land – a place they go to worship,” said Jonathan Gant at Global Witness. “Without laws and penalties to keep agricultural companies in check they will continue to get away with trampling over the rights and traditions of landowners across Liberia.”
SOURCE: Global Witness Website