To develop its economy, the government of Liberia has granted concessions to several international companies to grow oil palm, of which the largest are Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL) in the Southeast (Grand Kru and Sinoe counties) and Sime Darby in the West (Grand Cape Mount county). The gross concession areas of 300,000 – 350,000 hectares include HCV/ HCS forest. As this forest is not managed or conserved, oil palm development, roads and population growth mean these forests are subject to deforestation. We collaborate with our partners to develop an inclusive community out-grower scheme for oil palm, mobilize investment through the &Green Fund, develop finance institutions, and safeguard a landscape approach to forest protection with a focus on food security, land rights, and community decision making.
The path to market transformation in the Liberia Southeast and West landscapes is to pilot a socially inclusive and environmentally friendly way of setting up palm oil production. The out-grower model designed by IDH and private-sector companies shows that a different approach to palm oil might be possible, by offering an alternative to the traditional plantation approach, where the communities, land-use planning and forest are central. Once rolled out, the scheme could serve as a model for other palm oil companies in Liberia and beyond, and for more inclusive and forest-friendly development of export/cash crop production in other countries in Africa and Asia.
Changes in business practicesPrivate-sector (sustainability) investments: Target 2020 23,500,000Target 2017 0Result 0Together with GVL, IDH presented a proposal to potential impact investors for 4,000 hectares of community-owned oil palm farms and some 20,000 hectares of protected forest in the Southeast landscape. The proposal could become the leading model for concession development in Liberia through poverty reduction, linking investments in agricultural productivity to forest protection through production-protection agreements (PPAs), and putting communities at the head of decision making on land use. Several of the investors showed interest and entered negotiations with GVL. The presidential election (October – December 2017) postponed many activities in Liberia, including investment decisions. It also became clear that additional support from the government of Liberia was needed. In the West landscape, Sime Darby is interested in a similar investment approach, but activities have been put on hold while awaiting the outcome of the High Carbon Stock (HCS) assessment in its gross concession area. In the meantime, Sime Darby has already developed an updated concession development strategy with a much stronger role for community out-growers.
Changes in landscape governanceCommunities participating in oil palm out-grower scheme: Result (expressed interest after information meeting) 5IDH designed a new inclusive and participatory governance process in the Southeast landscape. This involves five steps that communities need to follow to give Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) before deciding to join the oil palm out-grower scheme. Through this process, we started identifying potential out-grower and forest locations, organizing community information events in 13 communities in Sinoe County with GVL and the Liberian government. Following the FPIC process, five communities expressed interest in taking the scheme forward. One community reached the feasibility and land identification phase of the process (stage 2) and capacity building on the forest protection plan and governance (stage 3). The implementation is now on hold until the government, GVL, and later Sime Darby and investors make progress on the investment decision. IDH’s decision-making process showed that a different approach to palm oil is possible: one where the communities, land-use planning and forest are central.
Field-level impactFarmer field schools established: Result 11Number of people trained in food security and income diversification: Result (in 10 communities) 250IDH partnered with the Liberian Ministry of Agriculture and the Farmers Union Network on several initiatives. We established 11 farmer field schools and held food security and income diversification trainings in 10 communities in Sinoe County, to ensure they do not become food insecure by spending all resources on producing oil palm. Following the FPIC principles, we organized a decision-making process for the oil palm out-grower scheme with 13 communities. This included developing education and communication materials, such as toolkits and posters on Community Oil Palm with Forest Protection. The process also helped resolve land boundary issues with the Land Authority and the Forest Authority.
Liberia could be the first case in WestAfrica where investments in oil palm are socially inclusive, explicitly designed to improved development of communities, and linked to environmental protection.
Around 70% of the 250 participants in the farmer field school project are women. However, we still need to encourage and support more women to actively participate in discussions during the FPIC process for the palm oil out-grower scheme.
Our concepts and investment proposal are promising game changers. Liberia could be the first case in West Africa (maybe even worldwide) where investments in oil palm are socially inclusive, explicitly designed to improve the economic development of communities, and linked to environmental protection. For now, negotiations around investment have come to a near standstill, due to a combination of factors including company restructuring and the postponing of investment decisions.
The presidential election of 2017 had a significant impact on the progress of the program. With a new president in place, it will take some time before a new agenda is developed for the country. However, building partnerships with ministries before the elections helped us to start rebuilding these relationships soon after. One such positive example is our partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture on farmer field schools. While designing the FPIC-based community decision-making process, we benefited significantly from including critical local civil society groups and international NGOs.