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Land access constraints for communities affected by large-scale land acquisition in Southern Sierra Leone


While national figures of land availability are used to justify accepting large-scale land investors, not very much is known about the local level realities of land availability. By combining remotely sensed data with fieldwork, system dynamics modelling and qualitative research methods, we examine local level realities of land use and availability in the Malen Chiefdom of Southern Sierra Leone. Here, local communities are experiencing the outcomes of large-scale investments in oil palm for biodiesel and other industrial purposes by the SOCFIN Agricultural Company. We find that beyond agricultural production, there are other land uses that are vital for the socio-cultural, economic and environmental realities of communities. The Company does not respect engagements promised to local people to set aside buffer zones around living areas to serve as biodiversity corridors. Local communities are severely deprived of agricultural land and other land resources. The operations of SOCFIN do not take account of present or future land needs of local people. A baseline requirement of food crop land should be set aside for each community, to ensure the attainment of food security in communities affected by land acquisitions. Such baseline requirement should be augmented with local level needs assessments to meet new demand for cropland necessitated by changing demography. This model of land planning can be applied to other land use and additional engagements of large-scale land investors.

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The authors sincerely and warmly thank all those who contributed with information, time and other resources leading to the preparation of this paper. This includes individuals, non-governmental organizations and members of community groups in Sierra Leone. We also thank all the people who contributed with their comments to improve the paper.

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Correspondence to Genesis Tambang Yengoh.



See Table 4.

Table 4 Population data used for modeling

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Yengoh, G.T., Armah, F.A. Land access constraints for communities affected by large-scale land acquisition in Southern Sierra Leone. GeoJournal 81, 103–122 (2016).

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  • Land acquisitions
  • Livelihoods
  • Buffer zones
  • Cropland requirements
  • Land policy