Land Grabbing by Swiss Company
|What is affected||
|Type of violation||
Privatization of public goods and services
|Date||01 December 2009|
|Region||AFA [ Africa anglophone ]|
|Location||northern part of the country|
- Land area (square meters)
|- Total value|
|Privatization of public goods and services|
Duty holder(s) /responsible party(ies)
Hunger and Land Grabbing in Sierra Leone |
Mankind`s Activities for Development Accreditation Movement (MADAM)
Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world. Hunger is rampant in every corner of the country. However it is here, of all places, that Addax Bioenergy, headed by Swiss oil magnate and financier Jean- Claude Gandur, has sublet land from communities in the northern part of the country. In December 2009, the government of Sierra Leone signed a memorandum of understanding with Addax regarding the leasing of over 20,000 hectares of land to grow sugar cane and cassava plants – the most important basic food in Sierra Leone, second only to rice – to produce ethanol destined for export to Europe. Members of Sierra Leone`s Council of Churches along with a human rights activist visited affected communities to find out if the northern area benefits from such investments. They were accompanied by MADAM, a local non-governmental organization.
The delegation visited Lungi, the village which has sublet its land to Addax for the next fifty years. They found a community that feels betrayed. The villagers reported that they had not agreed to lease the swamplands, which are the best land for growing cassava and rice. However, this land is now part of Addax`s lease agreement with the chiefdom council, which was signed on February 2010, but was never submitted to the community for review. Other members of the community complained about the destruction of their fields and forced Addax to pay for the loss of their food crops. However, the compensation was three times below what the villagers would have earned by selling their crops. In addition, these farmers now have to walk four kilometers to reach their allocated farmland. The community has protested this situation without any success.
Though it sold the deal with promises of development, including secure jobs, advanced payment, and help improving the local agriculture, Addax has not live up to its commitments. Young people are hit particularly hard. They had hoped for jobs, but only very few were hired to work on tae plantation, mostly as temporary workers. A young man reported that he worked for fifteen days but was paid for only three days of work. In addition, women reported that the Rokel River – which runs very near Lungi – can no longer be used for drinking water, because it is too muddy. To irrigate their plants, Addax uses pumps that have scared the fish away. The company also applies herbicides and fertilizer on the land. The farmers, used to rotating crops and natural fertilizers, fear that they will no longer be able to grow anything on their land after Addax`s departure, because the land will be totally exhausted.
In the chiefdom of Malal Marah, in the Tonkolili district, in exchange for land, Addax has promised to build a hospital and a secondary school, create jobs, bring electricity to the village, and pave the streets. For every acre of land, the company will pay five dollars. The individual land user will receive only USD 1.60 while the remaining money will go to the government, the district authorities, and the land owners. One young villager said, "because we are poor, we give our land away.” Nevertheless, villagers still hope that Addax will bring progress. However, if problems arise, the villagers do not know to whom they could turn with their grievances. Those who own the land live either abroad or far outside the village. Addax has promised them legal advice, but whose interests will the lawyers represent?
Land acquisition is not a new development in Sierra Leone. The huge amount of unused arable land has been attracting investors for decades. The case involving Addax is just one example among many others. However, recent trends show the massive acceleration of this phenomenon. Presently, leases for close to 1.5 million hectares of land are being negotiated in Sierra Leone. This represents 27.7 percent of all arable land in the country and more than doubles the land surface currently being cultivated.
(Source: Right to Food and Nutrition Watch 2010, October 2010, p. 52)