MONROVIA, June 29 Malaysian palm oil giant Sime
Darby has received the green light from villagers in
western Liberia to clear 5,000 hectares of land for a
plantation, after a non-governmental organisation have accused
it of a land grab.
A memorandum, signed at a ceremony in Grand Cape Mount
County on Friday, gave villagers' blessing for the company to
develop the land with oil palm and rubber. It was witnessed by
Liberian officials, civil society and traditional elders.
Environmental lobbyist Friends of the Earth accused Sime
Darby this week of harming biodiversity and depriving farmers of
their livelihoods with its development in the west African
country. The company denied the accusation.
Sime Darby has signed an agreement with Liberia to develop
about 220,000 hectares of land for 63 years.
However, it has met resistance from some locals who accused
the company of not properly informing them of the scale and
implications of the project.
The general manger of Sime Darby Liberia Plantation, Roslin
Azmy Hassan, told reporters the company had so far planted only
7,000 hectares of the land awarded it by the government.
"This is due to the many challenges we faced in the past.
But now, that has been cleared up and the locals are part of the
process, which is very good," she said.
The agreement called on the company to fully respect
Liberia's environmental regulations. The company also promised
to provide health and education facilities for its employees.
It said Sime Darby would establish an palm oil mill once it
had developed at least 15,000 to 20,000 hectares of its
Walter Yedebbuo Wisner, the co-chairman for the Land
Commission, a government agency responsible for land reform,
said the Malaysian company had respected Liberia's land laws and
Palm oil is the world's most widely produced vegetable oil
and is used in everything from margarine and soap to biofuel.
Annual production around the world is valued at about $20
(Reporting by Alphonso Toweh; Editing by Alison Williams)