The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in partnership with Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) on January 15, 2019, officially launched the “Improving Communication and Understanding of the RSPO Standard and mechanisms and their application in Liberia and at the West Africa Level” project in Monrovia.
The project is a one year pilot aimed at bridging an existing gap in communication and understanding between agricultural concessions and relevant stakeholders, such as affected communities and CSOs.
The project seeks to create platforms at national level to train rights-based NGOs and communities affected by oil palm plantation on how to effectively use the RSPO standards and mechanisms, and how to effectively and efficiently engage with RSPO to address concerns and needs. Information sharing among NGOs, affected communities and regional partners to increase the pool of actors working to bridge the existing gaps between local communities and oil palm companies in Liberia.
Speaking at the launch, RSPO Technical Manager for Africa Elikplim Dziwormu Agbitor stressed that there are three cardinal areas responsible for problems in Liberia; he named the lack of communication, land rights and participation as major factors. He said because of poor communication, concessionaires and communities do not understand one another; something he noted causes poor participation. He continued by saying contentions arising over land rights has also been a serious problem, thereby bringing accusations and defenses from both parties (concessionaire and community). He however expressed the hope that conflict over land ownership will be resolved with the Land Right Act being passed by the legislature.
GVL’s General Manager for Sustainability, Dr. Michael Abedi-Lartey used the occasion to clarify among others, land encroachment accusations and stressed the need for better communication chain, void of biased projections to be highly considered as the pilot project is implemented. Dr. Abedi-Lartey also explained that GVL did not withdraw from the RSPO but that the company offered to voluntarily suspend its membership to focus on strengthening its sustainability processes and practices with a comprehensive action plan.
The project launch was followed by a two-day training session for representatives drawn from local communities and civil society organizations (CSOs).