Alhaji M. Kamara reports in Sierra Leone News: NSAs demand 25 years land lease to Multinational Investments
As way to control land use and land lease to multinational foreign companies and ensuring women’s rights to own land, a group of Non-State Actors (NSAs) led by Action Aid have called on government to limit all land leases with multinational investments to 25 years instead of the current 50 years.
The Action Aid and its local partners in this land reform advocacy including African Youth Coalition Against Hunger (YACAN) and the Sierra Leone Network of Journalists Against Land Grabbing (SLENJLG) maintain that women, children and the youth should realize the full benefits of their land in a dignified manner.
Representing the Country Director of Action Aid, Mustapha Katta, and speaking on behalf of the NSAs, he disclosed that the natural resources sector including land, forestry and fisheries has played a central role in the country’s poverty reduction strategy paper called the Agenda for Prosperity, noting that “the sector experienced dramatic expansion and attraction of foreign direct investments in the last 5 years”.
He maintained that from 2010 to 2013, foreign direct investments amounted to about USD 2.5 billion such that in 2012, the country recorded one of the world’s highest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 15.2 percent. He said that notwithstanding this growth in 2012, USD 224 million (59% of total revenue) was lost in customs and GST incentives given to six major mining and agribusiness multinational companies excluding discretionary tax breaks given to other smaller investments.
The NSAs maintain that these losses, calculated as inducements to attract multinational companies, are being undertaken at the expense of quality basic services which women, children and youth could have benefited from to enjoy a dignified life. He pointed out that for the Agenda for Prosperity to achieve its goals, it should recognize challenges as to how to overcome the issues of inequality, high poverty rates, food insecurity, environmental degradation and unpredictability of global economy.
“Land expropriations are taking place at a very fast unprecedented rate without having in place laws, regulations and institutional structures to coherently manage natural resources including arable land, water, forest, minerals and other land assests for equitable and sustainable development,” he pointed out.
Katta revealed that expropriation have resulted into land grabbing that violate the rights of women and smallholder food producers to access and have control over land and natural resources, and that interpretations, procedures and interest set in land governance instruments deprives and marginalise more women and rural families that are losing land to multinational companies with sole aims of profiteering.
“We are calling on the government of Sierra Leone to adopt and fully implement the Tenure Guidelines on land, fisheries and forestry and prioritise the rights and needs of land users and owners, especially women,” the Non State Actors demanded, and urged the government to also ensure free, prior and informed consent of all affected communities.
The NSAs also call for a moratorium on large-scale land deals and to review public policies on land incentives so as to ensure that premium is put on small-scale food producers, particularly women.
Representing women, Madam Agnes Abu, expressed thanks and appreciation to Action and other partners for supporting women in owning land as she is aware about the wide spread of land grabbing across the country, disclosing that 70% of the women in the country are in the farming business.
She maintained that despite the enactment of the Devolution of Estates Act by Parliament, Government should ensure women have rights to own land and also benefit as equal to their male counter-part in sharing family properties.