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Is Liberia land grab by foreign firms sowing seed of future conflict?-Africa Today-03-13-2012

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Published on Mar 14, 2012

Small farmers lose livelihoods as 'controversial' palm-oil producing multinational moves in. Much of rural Liberia's population lives on land that has been in the family for generations.

Most people don't have the money to go through the costly and complicated process of acquiring deeds, so under Liberian law the government is the owner of all public land.

Sando's land was not registered; therefore it belonged to the government. However, a report from the Centre for International Conflict Resolution (CICR), at Columbia University in the US, raises doubts about whether the future is quite so bright for the communities affected by the company's actions.

The report studied the impact on communities of investments by four companies: Golden Veroleum, Sime Darby, ArcelorMittal and Putu Iron Ore Mining Corporation.

The three-month study - based mainly on town hall meetings, focus group discussions and interviews with indigenous groups, public officials, UN staff, civil society activists, international organisations and corporate representatives - found that lack of consultation on the investment projects had resulted in "high tension" among communities.

Investment has flooded into Liberia since President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf rid the country of its crippling foreign debt. She has brought peace and development to the nation after 14 years of devastating civil war.

The country has signed natural resource deals with foreign investors, mainly in iron ore and palm oil, amounting to a total projected value of around $19bn. According to the report, an official from the ministry of planning said these deals cover almost half of the country's total landmass.

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