In the forests of southeastern Liberia, frustrations are mounting with the vibrations of power saws and bulldozers. Far from the capital in Monrovia, villagers depend on the rich forests for their food and water, livelihoods, and culture. Liberia’s nearly 100-year history of granting concessions to foreign investors has largely targeted communities’ traditional lands with the hopes of driving economic growth. In Sinoe County, many residents say their experiences with Golden Veroleum (GVL), a palm oil company that arrived in 2010, have been disappointing and detrimental to their way of life.
In many instances, communities say their land was taken without their consent. Following years of complaints to international organizations — including the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the industry’s leading certification body — these communities remain on the frontlines of a development model that puts people’s wellbeing in the hands of private companies and foreign investors.