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The African Palm Oil industry in Liberia continues to expand thanks to the push it has been receiving by the government for over a decade. But not only the Liberian government is interested in the expansion of these monoculture plantations to produce agrofuels; the activity is also highly financed by European entities.
This is the case of Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL), a company whose only investor is Golden Agri-Resources, based in Indonesia, and the second largest African oil palm company in the world. This company receives high finance from seven European financial institutions (among them Standard Chartered, HSBC, Delta Lloyd and Deutsche Bank).
Today, Ali Kaba, member of the Sustainable Development Institute – Friends of the Earth Liberia, concluded a tour through European countries where over the course of several weeks he met with different policy makers to denounce the threats and damage caused by GVL against rural communities and the environment.
In an interview with Real World Radio, Ali Kaba made reference to the case of GVL and the consequences of its project on the lives of communities in South-East Liberia: “Golden Veroleum came to Liberia in 2010, and they are getting about 260,000 hectares of land, with and addition of 60,000 for agroscale. The premise on which the lands were given to Golden Veroleum was that the lands were not occupied. However, in Liberia, being an agriculture country where 70% of the people are dependent on agriculture, it was a no-brainer that they were going to crush on people’s land. But Golden Veroleum insisted on that contract, and after getting that contract they started operations. And the operation has led to displacement of communities, and because of the displacement, we have seen an increase in cases of poverty, lack of access to farm land, leading to food insecurity. For example, a woman who used to spend 10 minutes a day trying to find water for her family, now spends two hours or more trying to get the same amount of water”.
In addition to affecting communities (it is estimated that GVL monocultures will directly impact 41 thousand people), the advance of African palm is also affecting biodiversity: “Either directly cutting trees or pushing communities that are defending the forests and leading them away from forest areas”.
The demand for massive production of African palm comes from Europe, according to the activist: “The trigger for palm oil expansion is within Europe (…). For example, Europe has a policy for renewable energy which is defined by palm oil for biofuels. They also have a lot of products that are produced here and the base of these products is palm oil”.
“We went to the European Parliament in Brussels, we met with lawmakers in Amsterdam, and we also met with policy makers in London. We came here to meet with policy makers to let them know that the policy around biofuels is leading to an expansion of palm production, which is also leading to human rights abuses and environmental damage”, said Ali Kaba, recognizing that they received some good promises from some people, “but other areas were a little disappointing because there were no strong commitments”.
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