Monrovia- Citizens of Zodua Clan, Grand Cape Mount County, Senjeh in Bomi and parts of Gbarpolu counties in western Liberia are hoping that an ongoing Hard Carbon Stock Survey being conducted by Sime Darby Plantations Company will prove positive, thereby allowing the company to expand its operations in their areas.
In a recent meeting in Gohn, Zodua Clan the citizens expressed that they are not looking to any options for the development of their land if the Hard Carbon Study proves unfavorable for the expansion.
When told by one official of Sime Darby that the citizens need to look to the Liberia’s Forestry Development Authority (FDA) for other options in the event that the ongoing HCS study proves that the land is not suitable for palm oil cultivation, the citizens refused to accept the offer to go into any other arrangement on the utilization of their land.
“All we want is Sime Darby, we are not looking anywhere, so whether Carbon study, no Carbon study we are hoping for Sime Darby to come now and help provide jobs for us”, one elder said.
People in Gbarpolu County are also eager to see the company expand its operations in their county to provide jobs like the case with Bomi and Grand Cape Mount counties.
Several callers on a local radio talk show expressed that they do not want any activity that will stop Sime Darby from expanding to their county.
Gbarpolu is one of the idle counties in terms of economic activities with the exception of mining activities which does not provide real jobs for the locals.
The company has expressed that as a responsible company, working in line with the RSPO requirements it cannot expand operations until it conducts the HCS study.
Sime Darby Plantations Company one of the concessionaires that signed a 63 year agreement in post war Liberia is currently serving as a source of employment for thousands, creating economic buoyancy in the western region of Liberia and the country as a whole.
The company is currently conducting a Hard Carbon Stock study intended to know the carbon content of places the company intends to expand its operations. Since the company started operations it has been able to only cultivate a little over 10,000 hectares of land.
In line with some of the requirements of the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil, concession companies are expected to commit to protecting the environment. Some of the places the company is expected to expand have tropical forests that hold large stores of carbon, harbour important biodiversity, and are critical for the livelihoods of thousands of local communities.
The conversion of these forests to other uses including agriculture or plantations, are considered as emitters of greenhouse gases and to contribute a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, companies, members of RSPO are committed to sustainable palm oil production.
Some companies in collaboration with The Forest Trust (TFT), a global nonprofit, launched the Forest Conservation Policy (FCP) in 2011 and SDPL as a responsible company recently embarked on conducting a Hard Carbon Stock Study in parts of Grand Cape Mount, Bomi and Gbarpolu counties.
The Ground-truthing survey which involves calibration plots collection data to correlate them with airbone Lidar data has already been done and the aerial survey is still pending due to some technical problems but ahead of the process, citizens of Zodua, Senjeh and other places are worried and hoping that the survey will become positive where their areas will meet the requirements for the company to expand its operations.
The FCP focuses on the conservation of forests and ensures that companies engaged have no deforestation footprint by not developing oil palm plantations on areas that have High Conservation Value (HCV) and forest areas with High Carbon Stock (HCS).
The final stage of the HCS study, is expected to be conclude soon, to enable both the company and the locals know the status of their land.
Should the HCS study proved that the targeted places in these counties are not suitable for cultivation, it will be huge blow to the citizens who are anxious to see Sime Darby expands its operations in the areas.