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Bombali residents call for new land deals

Bombali residents call for new land deals

At BBC Tok Bot Salone Debate…

Residents of the Bombali Sebora and Makarie Gbanti Chiefdoms, mostly women farmers have called on the government of Sierra Leone start a new land deal with multinational companies especially with the Addax Bioenergy operating in the Bombali District.  (Photo: Abass J. Kamara:Program’s Coordinator of SiLNoRF)

These women made this appeal during a ‘Tok Bot Salone’ debate organised by the BBC Media Action on Wednesday 17th September at the Abbati Hall of the University of Makeni. The occasion attracted several dignitaries including the Program’s Coordinator of the Sierra leone Network on the Right to Food (SiLNoRF), Abass J. Kamara, the Deputy Mayor of the Makeni City Council, Isatu Fofanah, the Paramount Chief Bai Shebora Kasanga II and the Community liaison Officer of Addax Bioenergy Aminata Fornah serving as panelists while over one hundred women from the district formed the yoke of the audience. The topic for the debate was ‘how large scale land lease agreement has affected women in the Northern District’.

Women participants at the debate explained that their bone of contention with these multinational companies including Addax is that their operation has grown so big that they can no longer undertake their farming activities to enhance their livelihood. Majority of the women in attendance agreed that the present land agreement is not benefiting them as the monies these companies are paying were not enough to take care of their daily needs.

“These land agreement should be revisited because they are not good food women. It’s these lands we use to farm n take care of and educate our children. Most of us are single parent so without these lands, we won’t provide for our families,” said Mary Conteh from the Sierra Leone Teachers Union.

In his presentation, the Program’s Coordinator of SiLNoRF, Abass J. Kamara supported the concerns of the women because according to him, these are the issues his organization stands for. He said SiLNoRF has been closely monitoring the operations of these multinational companies and the communities that they operate in.

He explained that among the reasons leading to the dissatisfaction of the landowners in the country in general is what he described as the absence of ‘responsible land governance system’ in the country. Even though these land agreement has already been negotiated with lots of gray areas, it will be prudent on the path of the government and the stakeholders involved to go back to the drawing board and renegotiate them so that so that the people especially women will benefit from their lands. He said since the inception of SiLNoRF in 2008, they have been able to create the awareness among landowners as to how they should give up their lands for mining activities and how to channel their grievances against these multinational companies.

The Community Liaison Officer of Addax, Aminata Fornah said that some of these multinational companies are legally registered through the prescribed rules and regulations and are contributing to economic growth of the country. She said that eventhough Addax has not fully commenced its operations, people are expecting too much from the company. She assured the public that Addax is putting things in place to address some of the concerns of these communities and that that is clearly evident by the setting up of a 5-person Committee comprising women from the operational areas of Addax to project the interest of women.

According to Fornah, the company is observing both its corporate Philanthropy activities and Corporate Social Responsibility by giving colossal amount of monies to the Bombali District Council to undertake development activities in the country.

The Deputy Mayor of the Makeni City Council, Isatu Fornah emphasized that women are part of land owning families buy because of tradition; they could not in all cases be allowed to take the lead in land negotiations.

By Santigie Sesay-Mass Communication Intern at SiLNoRF

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