SINJE, Bomi â€“ The successor company to Sime Darby says it wants to forge better relations with the communities around its plantations in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount. It plans to do this through an outgrower program.
In January 2020, Sime Darby completed the sale of its Liberian subsidiary to Mano Palm Oil Industries Ltd, whose owners are the largest manufacturers of household products such as soap and bleach in Liberia.
Adama Seh, Mano Palmâ€™s head of corporate communications, says the company wants to see communities become shareholders and become self-reliant â€œwhere communities will be able to have their own palm farms to be able to sell to us.â€
Sime Darby had signed a 63-year concession agreement in 2009 for 220,000 hectares of land. However, concerns from environmentalists and property rights issues with communities that were not properly engaged by the government before the agreement was signed meant that Sime Darby was only able to plant on less than 5 percent of the agreed-upon land.
Mano Palm appears to be hoping that an outgrower scheme, sometimes referred to as contract farming, can allow the new company to more peacefully co-exist with communities while still expanding.
Seh said the outgrower scheme would allow communities to become employers and Mano would soon start regular monthly meetings with communities, some of which will involve the companyâ€™s chief executive officer.
â€œOne of the things we have promised our people is continuous community engagement,â€ he added. â€œWe want to see the community be part of what we are doing. This will be a regular activity of the company because this company is a Liberian company.â€
Seh also announced that a grievance committee had been established to handle grievances from the community members near its concession areas.
â€œFor the matter of fact, we just took one person from the project-affected communities who will be responsible to work with the communities and to even ensure that the outgrower scheme is fully implemented,â€ Seh noted.
Sehâ€™s announcements came days after Mano published a press release emphasizing its commitment to helping the Liberian government in the fight against COVID-19. The plantation said it had reduced its workforce, a move aimed at ensuring social distancing during the ongoing state of emergency.
Only essential workers such as harvesters, mill workers, security personnel, hospital staff, operational and estate managers, superintendents, overseers, headmen, and selected administrative staff would now be allowed to work.
In addition to these measures, the company said it was distributing two bags of rice to each employee. Mano Palm said it had also donated buckets, nose masks, and bleach to several government agencies and various security checkpoints.
Featured photo by Nanang Sujana/CIFOR