Golden Agri-Resources: Land Grabbing in Liberia

In 2013, the Sinar Mas Group publicly announced its intention to invest $1.6 billion into Liberian palm oil plantations over the next ten years. The deal is to be channeled through the Verdant Fund, (in which GAR is a major shareholder), to Golden Veroleum Inc., which has been receiving massive concessions (220,000 ha for palm oil plantations, etc.) from the Liberian government since 2010.[1] Opponents claim that GAR is funding land grabs in Liberia and robbing local villages of their livelihoods.[2]

In November 2012, several Liberian communities released a joint declaration regarding the Liberian government’s land concessions for palm oil producers. The communities claimed that they were not consulted prior to the government’s leasing of their lands, and that palm oil plantations would negatively affect their livelihoods.[3] A study conducted by The Forest Trust (TFT) in early 2013 confirmed these allegations, citing specific cases where land had been cleared without prior consultation, where drinking water had been polluted, and where cultural and spiritual sites had been destroyed by palm oil companies. Company compensation was also reportedly insufficient.[4] Golden Veroleum’s repeated breaches of the RSPO guidelines prompted the Green Advocates of Liberia to file a complaint with the RSPO in 2012 on behalf of affected communities.[5] An analysis of the concession agreements between the Liberian government and Golden Veroleum concluded that the company “failed to ensure compliance with their corporate responsibility to respect human rights and their RSPO commitments.”[6]

In June 2013, TFT acknowledged that Golden Veroleum made progress in terms of community involvement.[7] Greenpeace commended Golden Agri’s establishment of Community Engagement and Forest Conservation policies but stressed that their implementation should be monitored.[8][9]

 

Update April 2015:

The organization Forest Peoples Programme published a report on the harmful social and environmental impacts of Golden Veroleums palm oil operarions in Liberia (“Hollow Promises: An FPIC assessment of Golden Veroleum and Golden Agri-Resource’s palm oil project in south-eastern Liberia“). They conclude that the company continuously violated the rights of the communities to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), breaching the RSPO guidelines as well as Golden Agri´s own Forest Conservation Policy. According to the report, the palm oil companies misled and intimidated the people and caused conflicts in the communities. They urge them to recognise rights to land and resources of the communities and to fully comply with the principles of the FPIC.[10]

Further Information July 2015: 

Global Witness in a new report has established that GVL along with government officials in Liberia have been harassing communities into signing away their land for palm oil plantations.[1] 

Global Witness also showed that Golden Veroleum Liberia held public meetings with hundreds of participants during the peak of Liberia’s Ebola epidemic. Encouraging these groups of people to sign Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) to give away their land and in this way doubling the size of GVLs plantations.

[1] Global Witness (July 2015): The New Snake Oil. https://www.globalwitness.org/reports/new-snake-oil/

1] Mariel Grazella (2013): “Sinar Mas firm to invest $1.6 billion in Liberian palm oil”, The Jakarta Post, 26 March: www.thejakartapost.com/news/2013/03/26/sinar-mas-firm-invest-16-billion-liberian-palm-oil.html, accessed 01.10.2013

[2] Friends of the Earth International (2013): Land grabs and human rights violations exposed in Liberia ahead of global development summit, 1 February, http://www.foei.org/en/media/archive/2013/land-grabs-and-human-rights-violations-exposed-in-liberia-ahead-of-global-development-summit, accessed 8.10.2013

[3] Friends of the Earth (2012): Statement and Declaration by Affected Community Members from Sime Darby and Golden Veroleum Concessions: www.foei.org/en/media/resources-for-journalists/sime-darby-and-landgrabs-in-liberia/Community%20statement.pdf/view, p. 1, accessed 01.10.2013

[4] Richard Valdmanis (2013): “Largest Liberian palm oil project is failing locals. Study”, Reuters, 22 March: www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/22/us-editor-liberia-veroleum-palmoil-idUSBRE92L0Y520130322, accessed 01.10.2013

[5] RSPO (2013): Complaint on Golden Veroleum Liberia: www.rspo.org/en/status_of_complaint&cpid=24, accessed 01.10.2013

[6] Tom Lomax (2012): Human rights-based analysis of the agricultural concession agreements between Sime Darby and Golden Veroleum and the Government of Liberia, Moreton-in-Marsh: Forest Peoples Programme:     http://www.foei.org/en/media/resources-for-journalists/sime-darby-and-landgrabs-in-liberia/human-rights-based-analysis-of-the-agricultural-concession-agreements-between-sime-darby-and-golden-veroleum-and-the-government-of-liberia-tom/view, p. 31, accessed 01.10.2013

[7] TFT (2013): Letter to The Forest Trust: www.rspo.org/file /2013-06-10_The_Forest_Trust_letter_June2013.pdf, accessed 01.10.2013

[8] GAR (2012): GAR’s Sustainability Commitments: www.goldenagri.com.sg/sustainable_policies.php, accessed 01.10.2013

[9] Greenpeace (2013): Certifying Destruction. Why consumer companies need to go beyond the RSPO to stop forest destruction: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/publications/forests/2013/Indonesia/RSPO-Certifying-Destruction.pdf, p. 5, accessed 01.10.2013

[10] Forest Peoples Programme (2015): Press Release: Harmful Social and Environmental Impacts of Libiria Palm Oil Project Exposed: http://www.forestpeoples.org/topics/agribusiness/news/2015/04/press-release-harmful-social-and-environmental-impacts-liberia-palm ; accessed 28.04.2015

Affected topics
  • Human and Labour Rights
  • Environmental and Climate protection
Affected norms and standards Directly and indirectly (through shareholding) involved companies Indirect investors through shareholding

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