Monday, 12 March 2012

Food security in Liberia

Fifteen million tonnes of bananas are shipped around the globe every year. Consumers in the developed world have become use to exotic fruit and vegtables at all times - but the UN believes the best way to ensure nine billion people are fed and watered by 2050, is to produce and consume a significantly larger proportion of locally grown food.

On this week's One Planet we consider how resilient our global food chain is. We visit Europe's largest banana ripening warehouse; we hear from the community who are trying to bypass the food chain by growing everything themselves, plus we hear from Liberia - a country that is struggling to rebuild its agricultural sector after years of civil unrest.

To listen to this programme, please go to the BBC World Service website

Friday, 9 March 2012

Liberia land deals with foreign firms 'could sow seeds of conflict'

Pa Sando, the town chief of Konja, in Grand Cape Mount county in Liberia, looks out across the farmland. "I used to pick cocoa on this farm for more than 30 years. My grandfather planted it for us," he says. "All this area here was mine, and now it's all gone."

The land has been leased by Sime Darby Plantation (Liberia) Inc, owned by the Malaysian-based multinational Sime Darby, to grow trees for palm oil. Sando said he was never asked whether he wanted to give up his land – only that he saw the bulldozers in the bush and then his land was taken.

Much of rural Liberia's population lives on land that has been in the family for generations. Most people don't have the money to go through the costly and complicated process of acquiring deeds, so under Liberian law the government is the owner of all public land. Sando's land was not registered, therefore it belonged to the government.

Sime Darby has signed a 63-year agreement with the government to develop 220,000 hectares of land for palm oil. The company's website says it is "the world's premier producer of sustainable palm oil". It boasts of its aspiration of "making sustainable futures real for everyone". The word "sustainable" is mentioned repeatedly.

However, a report (pdf) from the Centre for International Conflict Resolution (CICR), at Columbia University in the US, raises doubts about whether the future is quite so bright for the communities affected by the company's actions.

To read more, please visit the Guardian website

Wronged women of Liberia reluctant to revisit human rights abuses

The women sat on plastic chairs arranged in a circle, some breast feeding, others with small children at their feet. This is their centre in Ganta, the dusty, vibrant commercial capital of Nimba county in north-east Liberia.

"Most of the women here were raped [during the war]," says Yarih Geebah, the speaker for Ganta Concerned Women. "But if you don't have money, nothing happens. [For] we, the poor people, we who don't know book … justice don't prevail."

Liberia went through a 14-year civil war in which people were forced to perform the most debased and cruel acts imaginable. Initial findings from a United Nations Development Programme/World Vision survey in 2004 estimated 40% of the country's women were subjected to sexual violence, although other estimates suggest the figure is higher.

One woman from the group spoke of how she was taken as a "rebel wife" and raped repeatedly. Eight years later, the boy she was "married to" – now a man, and also the father of her daughter – sells petrol in Ganta. She sees him every day.

In August 2003, when the Accra peace accord was signed, it was decided the best chance for Liberia to get some form of justice was through a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), as had been set up in countries such as South Africa and Rwanda. The commission's mandate was to document and investigate human rights abuses committed between January 1979 and October 2003 and then make recommendations to the Liberian government.

To read more please visit the Guardian website