Alphajor Cham from the Ministry of Agriculture, Wolfgang Wiethoff, German Ambassador, Charles Rogers, Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Abdulai Bun Wai, Action for Large-Scale Land Acquisition Transparency (ALLAT) (from left to right) attended the National Conference on Land Governance.
Photo: Maurice A. Boima

21.09.2016

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Sierra Leone is one of the least developed countries in the world and is still recovering from a civil war that ended in 2002. Increasingly, the Sierra Leonean government seeks to attract foreign investors through providing opportunities for large-scale land leases for the development of agribusiness. This has triggered a rapid transformation process that poses a considerable threat to food security and social stability. Despite being a pilot country for the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure, there is no real change on the ground as yet.

In February 2011, villagers of Malen Chiefdom in Pujehun District in the South of Sierra Leone were informed by their Paramount Chief that their land was going to be allocated to a foreign company. The investor was Socfin Agriculture Company S.L. Ltd. (SAC), a subsidiary of the Belgian corporation Socfin, registered in Luxembourg. Socfin leased 6,560 hectares of agricultural land in Malen Chiefdom for a period of 50 years, with the option for renewal for an additional 25 years. The land in Malen Chiefdom was leased by the Ministry of Agriculture from the traditional authorities and sub-leased to SAC.

On March 5th, 2011, a chiefdom meeting was held for the signing of the contract. It was guarded by armed security forces; the Paramount Chief, the Sierra Leone Minister of Agriculture and the General Manager of SAC were in attendance. The latter brought along 173 million Leones, about 40,000 US dollars.

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