The Oakland Institute is proud to have sponsored the first ever assembly of communities impacted by large-scale foreign land investments in Sierra Leone. Between April 1-4, 2012, farmers, small land owners, women, youth, and elders assembled in Freetown to have their voices heard and strategize a way forward. Joan Baxter, Senior Fellow at the Oakland Institute reports from the meeting.
It was the very first opportunity for Sierra Leoneans affected by the recent wave of large land deals in the country to find their collective voice and to make it heard. Ninety farmers from all over the country — women and men, young and old — made their way to the capital Freetown to share their experiences on how large-scale foreign land investment deals are affecting them. They came from eight districts and 20 chiefdoms where foreign investors have leased vast tracks of farmland, most for 50 years with a possible extension of 21.
The occasion was the first-ever national conference of landowners and land users in Sierra Leone, an event organized by the Sierra Leonean NGO Green Scenery, together with the Sierra Leone Network on the Right to Food (SiLNoRF). The Oakland Institute provided the financial support that made the conference possible and covered travel and accommodation costs for the participants.
By the time they had finished two days of intensive discussions, the participants had developed and unanimously adopted eight recommendations that they hope will end the suffering that the land deals are causing. Every single participant endorsed the final communiqué with a signature or, for those unable to write, a thumbprint.