Campaigners at the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), who are implementing the five-year project, say GLA 2.0 will be implemented in Sinoe, Grand Kru, Maryland, Gbarpolu, Grand Cape Mount and Bomi. These counties host the largest oil palm concessions and are hubs for illegal logging, infamous for elite land-grab and attacks on local activists. This threatens Liberia’s more than 40 percent of the Upper Guinea Forest undermines gains made in the forestry and land sector and undermines the country’s commitment to conserve 30 percent of its forest. And there have been land-related conflicts nationwide.
“This project…is timely,” said Wilfred Gray-Johnson, former commissioner of the Independent Human Rights Commission who launched the project. “Forest communities in several communities have been devastated by the impacts of industrial oil palm,” he added. “The livelihood, culture and human rights of these communities remain under threat as the companies continue to expand.” GLA 2.0 aims to combat the drivers of deforestation, abuses and community-marginalizing, agricultural policies. It has expected outcomes to benefit some 593,291 people in all six northwest and southeast counties.
SDI collaborates with national and international partners to achieve its objectives, including Civil Society Oil Palm Working Group, Community Rights Support Facility (CRSF) and the Rural Integrated Center for Community Empowerment (RICCE). It seeks to secure the customary land rights of communities affected by concessions in line with the Land Rights Act of 2018. The law guarantees customary land rights but many communities are still unaware of the law and how they can harness the rights it gives them.
“By 2025, the area and expansion of the industrial and elite land-based concessions will be reduced in Liberia and will no longer drive deforestation, forest degradation and the violation of local communities’ rights,” said Richard Sam, the SDI campaigner who is the regional coordinator of the program. The program will cost US$4 million. Francis Mwah, the Ministry of Agriculture’s representative on the National Oil Palm Platform of Liberia welcomed the initiative but cautioned against programs that drive way concessionaires. “Oil palm companies want to pull out,” he said. “Expansion is their greatest problem.” Loretta Pope-Kai, the chairperson of the National Civil Society Council of Liberia called on SDI and its partners to work with her group—the largest conglomerate of civil society groups in the country. She said the council would help give GLA 2.0 visibility and help it push the policies it desires to help empower local communities.