This document, presents a learning story from the LEGEND Challenge Fund that supported partnership projects by civil society and private sector business to test approaches through which private business can potentially contribute to more secure land rights and better land governance in agricultural investment sites and supply chains. It details the questions and practical challenges facing one company Natural Habitats Sierra Leone Ltd (NHSL) a member of the Netherlands based Natural Habitats Group (NHG), and the NGO Solidaridad, which partnered with NHSL to facilitate a process of agreement between the company and local communities to resolve problems, grievances and conflicts involved in the development of an oil palm plantation. These problems originated before NHSL acquired the investment site but involved conflicts between communities and the company and amongst community level and other stakeholders which were undermining social stability across one of Sierra Leone’s Paramount Chiefdoms, threatening community livelihoods and food security and the feasibility of the investment project. The key measure required to address this situation and overcome these problems agreed by all stakeholders at the outset of LEGEND project was a reduction in the size of the 41,218 hectare concession area.
This learning story was prepared by Soldaridad before the LEGEND project was complete, and it provides a snapshot of the concession reduction process and the challenges that confronted both Natural Habitats as a company and the local communities as legitimate indigenous land owners and users at the time. Readers should be aware that the problems associated with the excessively large original concession are now very largely resolved as the concession size has been reduced to 2,320 hectares (ha) an area considerably smaller than the area the company expected to retain at the time the story was written. This is thanks to the efforts of Solidaridad, the patience and active engagement of local community stakeholders, the sensibility and responsiveness of NHSL staff and Sierra Leone, the company as a whole and of government officials and the support and encouragement by the LEGEND programme LEGEND does not however have access to full information about exactly how all of the questions referred to in this document have been resolved.
It should also be noted that views expressed in this document reflect those of the author and those taken by Solidaridad and other stakeholders in the process at the time; as such they do not necessarily reflect the views of the companies involved, or those of the LEGEND programme and of DFID.
Authors and Publishers
The Solidaridad Network is an international civil society organisation founded in 1969. Its main objective is facilitating the development of socially responsible, ecologically sound and profitable supply chains. It operates through nine regional expertise centers in over 50 countries. Solidaridad seeks to transform production practices to promote fair and profitable livelihoods and business opportunities, decent working conditions and a fair living wage. Solidaridad without depleting the landscapes where people live and thrive.