Landowners and local authorities voice their strong support to Addax Bioenergy sustainability
The Addax sugarcane project has again been audited by international auditors who regularly come to check on its performance. Addax is certified under the Roundtable for Sustainable Biomaterial and audits are carried out to evaluate if the project is in compliance with the standards for its estate and ethanol production sites.
The auditor team visited the new ethanol factory that soon will be commissioned, talked to managers and workers, and visited many villages. Meeting also took place with different stakeholders in the Addax area of operations seeking out comments on the social, environmental and economic impacts of the project and the production of ethanol. On Wednesday 13 November a large meeting took place at UNIMAK in Makeni with about 200 landowners and land users from the communities as well as NGOs, civil society organizations including SLAJ, CSOPAD, WHRD, SiLNoRF, Actionaid, the media. Auditors asked villagers about their engagement with the company and if the company lived up to certain criteria.
Despite attempts from campaigning organisations such as SiLNoRF and Actionaid, who took the floor at several occasions to challenge both the Government and the company; village elders and from Malal Mara underlined that Addax had held meetings every month with land owners to thrash out land issues. The Chief in Masorie village reinforced the correctness of the procedure that Addax had followed in acquiring the land areas. Mr Momodou Conteh, Senior Regional EPA Officer emphasized that Addax operations were in compliance with environmental laws. Land owners from Malenka said that Addax was comparable to NO other company and gave two examples; the road network that had been established would run from Malenka to Freetown, formerly there were only 8 houses in their village now there are 68 houses! Land users from Makari Gbanti informed that they were witness to, and participated in five meetings which Addax had organised at the time they started in 2009.
At each of these meetings, the villagers had all agreed that the company was here to do good work; did not consider that Addax was grabbing their lands; In fact, they informed auditors, Addax does NOT touch any land under dispute; and all families are adequately compensated. They underlined that people’s status have changed! They were certain that what Addax was bringing is sustainable development. He pleaded that people should please leave Addax to continue to do its good work. The Youths of Kolisoko village stated Addax has resolved all the land disputes in their community and that Addax gives 100 percent compensation to farmers for their lands. This was echoed by Rev. A.F. Kamara from Kolisoko village in Makari Gbanti who informed that since 2009 planning meetings have been held. Many stated that Addax’s work is in line with the Agenda for Prosperity. Auditors were informed that copies were at hand of ESHIA studies, which prove degree of compliance with environmental aspects.
Praised was also bestowed on the company as Addax has been humble enough to accept, and has applied changes where errors have been committed on workers right, and stated that in all cases where necessary the law will apply.
Also on matters of food security the division between campaigners and land users was apparent. Mr. Mohamed Conteh of SiLNoRF argued Addax has an obligation to provide food security. Land users in contrast could inform that Addax has engaged some 39 communities involving more than 4000 households and trained over 2400 farmers and informed that Addax had promised to assist every household for a period of 3 years.
Several women commended Addax for their training on backyard, cash crop production. These women formerly worked the land with hoes, but now Addax has brought in tractors. This has created a surplus production, which is sold for cash. They praised Addax for providing such asistance, even before they had started producing bio-ethanol and making money.
Other land users pronounced that while they cannot claim that Addax has done 100 percent, in their conscience they have done a lot! For example farmers no longer only farm one acre, they now farm up to 5 acres in some areas. Campaigning organizations who are just criticizing and are interested, should COME OUT AND FARM and not just sit in Freetown.
MAFFS Regional Director; Mr Joseph Thorli finally stated that previously BELOW 15 percent of the area was under production. He challenged the “independent surveys‘ that some organizations claim to have carried out, and invited the researchers to come the Ministry to have their results vetted. Similarly, the farming population had been less than 200, and had consisted mainly of small holders with less than 1 -2 acres.
Addax now supports farmers with agriculture materials, and as a result, a good number of newcomers have jumped into farming. Previously the total acreage under cultivation was less than 1000 acres. Now it is between 10-12 000. He warns that farmers should NOT expect Addax to stay on forever! Instead farmers should strive to be self-sustainable! The Ministry, he concluded, is proud of Addax!
A woman gave her personal case as an example of how Addax has impacted on her livelihood: thanks to Addax she now runs a cookrie; sells the extra rice she cultivates and uses the proceeds for paying school fees; and has even built a house! She, however, calls on Addax to increase their support, particularly by digging more wells!
Another woman from Lungi Acres: praised Addax for the assistance they had rendered her when she was ill. She also called for water wells in the communities; requested that the mud build-up near her village be reduced; suggested that Addax should ask the villagers where they need help; she called on Addax to continue and to also provide additional help for children!
Another female land owner claimed that if she wants to enumerate the good that Addax was doing, she could talk the whole day. As example, previously, she used to use hoes for her farming; today tractors are doing the ploughing; she thus produces a large surplus which she sells to pay her children’s school fees; Addax in her view has a unique heart, to be providing such assistance even before they enter the production phase. She requests Addax to consider employment for many more of the youths.
Abu Bakarr Kargbo
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