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19 Jul 2021

Jeroen Groot, FD (The Netherlands)

Human rights concerns in Liberia's palm oil plantations, including working conditions & loss on livelihoods; agribusinesses & financiers comment

"Sad oil palm harvest"

... Around the equator, where the oil palm (Elaeis guineaensis) grows best, a fierce battle is underway for land. The plantations offer work in places where this is extremely welcome. At the same time, the large-scale cultivation of the oil palm in developing countries is accompanied by gross abuses...We drop off Occasious in the center of his village, Butaw. He has indeed received money for his country, he has previously said. One hundred and fifty U.S. dollars. A pittance compared to the yields that his harvests would yield. They should have funded a real house for his children, a concrete house. On the other side of the village he started over, on a new piece of land. But that's much less.

... The locals have to agree to the plantations on their land, and so get something in return in the form of education and jobs. According to the NGOs, Golden Veroleum does not comply with the agreements, and in some cases the villagers have been pressured to agree. The RSPO and the HCSA considered the complaints to be well-founded: Golden Veroleum must return to the negotiating table and must not build new plantations until the problems are resolved. These negotiations are difficult. Meanwhile, the company shields in its own sustainability bulletin and from journalists with the contributions it makes to the local community.

Golden-Agri Resources states in a response to the FD that it closely follows all complaints against Golden Veroleum and that Golden Veroleum will indeed not develop new plantations until the problems are resolved... Development bank FMO calls the information about the abuses at MOPP in this article worrying and says it will enter into discussions with MOPP and Environmental Defense.