MONROVIA – GVL is disappointed to see Global Witness (GW) and Sync Consult make erroneous claims in their reports published on October 19, 2016. On multiple occasions since 2015, GVL has invited Global Witness to come and see on the ground the work we are doing to develop the business. Although they have not responded we still do encourage them to meet with us in Liberia and understand what is happening directly.
Religious Sites and Old Towns Protected
The Global Witness assertions relating to the Tarjuowon community are incomplete and not representative of the facts on the ground. GVL obtained community consent by conducting a full FPIC (Free Prior Informed Consent) process in 2013 and no claims of the referenced locations being religious sites were made during this process. It is also notable that these claims are refuted by the majority of the Kulu clan membership, of which the Blogbo form a part.
Police Protecting GVL Butaw Farm and Community
The temporary presence of the police is to protect employees and personnel following a violent attack in May 2015. The police serve in a reactive role and it is unclear how this police presence could intimidate a community that lives over 30 kilometres away. GVL pays Daily Subsistence Allowances (DSAs) in line with Government of Liberia (GOL) guidelines. Under the President’s directive, GOL deployed the unit to be based on the farm pending construction of a community police station in Butaw, which we understand is now underway.
GVL Calls for Sound Economic and Social Research
GVL welcomes and calls for sound economic and social research based on thorough fact-finding and proper analysis. However, the report GW has commissioned from Ghanaian Sync Consult is regrettably fundamentally flawed in its facts and its analysis. For example, the consultant has fundamentally misunderstood the relationships between area, employment and the economics of oil palm. The report claims that GVL will develop the full 33,000 hectares of an area of investigation, although we will only develop 4,000 ha within this zone. Similarly they claim the employment for a 33,000 ha development would require only 1,650 employees. In the oil palm business, this scale would require a minimum of 5,500 employees. There are many other errors. Regrettably, GVL was not given an opportunity to contribute substantively to the report, as we would have been able to point out these flaws. We will comment in detail on this in our full response.
In line with best practice, GVL will now address the assertions made in both reports and publish our findings. We note, however, that the reports contain assertions made by the same organisation in 2015 and which we refuted at the time. This does underline our opinion that only by constructive dialogue will progress be made.
GVL is fully committed to building a sustainable business in Liberia including the infrastructure that underpins that development such as roads and healthcare facilities and to support the economic development of host communities. It will take many years before oil palm is produced at scale in Liberia and many more years before the investor companies may see a return on their significant investments. As with all projects, there are a number of challenges to first be overcome. As a company, we do not claim to have all the answers and we have therefore committed significant time and investment to working with the many community representatives, local NGOs and sustainability advisers to benefit from their experience.