With high expectations from the Citizens of Bomi and Grand Cape Mount counties for the Malaysian oil palm giant to invest in their area, they have expressed some level of dissatisfaction over the new precondition for investment in the area.
The company has told them that they cannot move into the place without going through some international protocols which they are party to.
In 2014, the Sustainable Palm Oil Manifesto, of which Sime Darby Plantation is a signatory, commissioned the High Carbon Stock (HCS) Science Study. This study is aimed at clearly defining what constitutes a HCS forest, and to establish HCS thresholds that takes into account not only environmental concerns, but also socio-economic and political factors in developing and emerging economies.
But the citizens said the Sustainable Palm Oil Manifesto document is not necessary applicable to their environment. Land in these two places are considered as below secondary land. The two areas do not have high forest, the citizens said. Many of them said this is land that has been used over the past 50 years for farming purpose; and all forest by that time were cut down by the farmers prior to the granting of the concession to Sime Darby.
The HCS Science Study, is supported by a wide range of stakeholders worldwide and has proposed HCS+ as a guide for oil palm growers to develop plantations that are carbon neutral, conflict-free, transparent and equitable to all stakeholders.
The company has had a moratorium on any clearing of land since September 2014. This,several residents in these counties are not happy as such delay is affecting the flow of development in their counties.
Prior to September 2014, Sime Darby Plantation said it also had strict policies and guidelines on the preservation and protection of High Carbon Value (HCV) areas, including Environment & Biodiversity Policy and Slope & River Protection Policy.
Sime Darby Plantation said it has observed these policies for all new land that would be developed in Liberia.
Several citizens from Bomi and Grand Cape Mount counties said the measures are good, but are only intended to please the international community.
Boima Q. Sando, the coordinator of civil society organizations said the issue of the high carbon stock studies is a sticky issue right now for them at the community’s level.
“For what we see, the international standard they set is intended to have an opportunity at the international level to maintain the ecosystem at the detriment of our people,” he said.
“If they say Liberians don’t use the forest, they talked about the primary, secondary forests. Most of our forests here have been deforested because our people have farmed and farm again,” Sando added.
According to him, it is good for the company to follow standards, but it is going to strain them and create financial burden for them.
He added that if the company cannot expand, it means there will be no job for them.
“I can tell you if you see our forests, we have third level forests. It has been deforested. I want to send this message to the international community that the process they have put into place is good, but it is going to be at the detriment of our people,” he noted.
InGohn-Zodua town, Garwula district in Grand Cape Mount County that have provided 5000 hectares of land to Sime Darby said the decision will be sticky for them as people who want the company to come to their clan are becoming inpatient, but SDPL said they cannot do anything at the moment.
“With the above commitment to ensuring that our plantation development is carbon neutral, conflict-free, transparent and equitable to stakeholders, Liberians can rest assured that Sime Darby will not be carrying out logging activities within its concession area even if the government decides to introduce the Conversion Timber/Logging regulation in the country, the company once said in a release.
MomoZodua, Town chief of Failie town said they all agreed to make available over 5000 hectres of undeveloped land to the company for investment, but the point of contention is on the HCS study, which will be waste of money by the international community.
“They just want to come and waste money to carry out helicopter to see the land. They will be disappointed when they fly over the land. They will not see any forest,” he said.
John kai Gray, the Secretary General of the Land committee for the clan said to validate their willingness, the forest areas are demarcated from what they selected for the company.
“Our decisions have since been endorsed by every citizen of this clan and we are committed to that decisions,” John Kai Gray indicated.
He said they are appealing to the international community and SDPL to move in and carry out land development.