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Theo Wallace’s Testimony About Their Land Struggle With Maryland Oil Palm Plantation

SESDev formed a committee and began to provide some support to us. Before we could start, we approached the Government through the superintendent about what the company did on our land, by encroaching on our land without informing us. By then, SESDev has already told us about FPIC. We told the superintendent that the company had taken certain portion of our land, and planted cornerstone on other portions, threating to clear in the near future. They did all this without FPIC. Secondly they did not compensate other people whose houses were broken down.
We then took the company to the superintendent. According to the company, they said they did not know that the land was for the Sea-side Grebo People. It was the Yanbo people that took them to the site. The Yanbo people had sold a land that was claimed by the Sea-side Grebo. So they told us to settled this dispute with our neighbor, the Yanbo people as to whether the land is theirs or ours.
After meeting with the Yanbo people, together they and we confirmed that the land was ours, the Sea-side Grebo, we met with the company, but the company only used strategy: They acknowledged that the land belongs to us, and told us that they would put it into written document so that the land could be recognized by paper. Later, they came with another strategy: asking to call a feast where they would kill cow so that we could eat to our full, but we persisted on no and insisted on having a written document for our land. They still used another strategy by calling in some government officials to talk to us so that we all can have a round-table discussion about our land. We told the officials that we agree to have the discussion as long as the company recognizes that the land is ours, and are ready to put it into written document.
So we went into a meeting to decide that since the company does not want to recognize that the land belong to us, we will write to their investors about their encroachment. When the company heard this, they became afraid, but still found ways to convince us.

We then inform TFT through SESDev about all this. TFT is one of the bodies responsible to solve disputes between company and the community. And so TFT got involved and ensure that they would tell the company to recognize our land. Still the company is reluctant to do this.
In 2013, we wrote the company (MOPP), but they ignored. So together we and SESDev confronted the company. SESDev only came along to get prove on what the company was doing to us as we had complained to them. SESDev gave us more information on what to do.
Seeing that the company wasn’t still recognizing us, some community members suggested we incite a riot while others suggested we constitute a committee that will address the company. As I said earlier on, the company had already cleared our land and were planting palm, and had already planted cornerstones too, relocating some people without compensation.
After setting up the committee, and having several confrontations with the company, the company decided that we and the Yanbo people go with them to show them our traditional linings. As soon as this is done, they will go into negotiation with us. The fact here is cleared that we and the company had never before gone into any agreement. It was the Yanbo that willingly gave our land to MOPP out of greed for money. Pretty soon, they will be out of land for farming and even habitation for they had sold out about 80% of their land to MOPP and CRC. Most of their towns are in the plantation today. The company is forcing them to go to the border or come to the Sea-side Grebo to resettle.

This almost brought a huge conflict between the two clans, but glory to God for SESDev that came in as an NGO to guide. Who knows, maybe we would have taken on riot with the company and lose all our rights. Because of SESDev, we were able to take the right stand, that is to constitute committees to help our communities. Today we know what FPIC and Land Rights are, and how women and youth contribution in land matters are very important. Not only chiefs and elders should discuss land issues. There were chiefs and their fellow chiefs that went into cleak to discuss about the land, and today Yanbo is in great confusion.
To admit, SESDev has given us the power to negotiate for our land the right way, not only to sell out land, but to also go into partnership with the company, where the company provides the equipment and you provide the land. Sometimes it is good to be a plantation owner than to be a plantation worker. So when the company agree that the land belongs to us, we are not forced to sell it to them or go into any agreement. One thing we want to look into is the out grower project, where the company supports the community or the individual who has land in planting on that land, and then the company share the benefit with the community or individual when harvest is ready. This is similar to what is been done in Ivory Coast. This is a good idea because it helps to empower the community or the individual. There is more to talk about, but because of time factor, I’d end it here. Thanks! “

Author: SESDev