At a well attended signing ceremony of a 49 years lease agreement between the people of Masimera chiefdom and the ‘Quifel Agribusiness’ on Wednesday this week for 27,000 hectares of land, the deputy minister of local government and community development Raymond Kabia strictly warned the people of that chiefdom to keep off the leased land to allow meaningful investment.
“For the past couple of days we have been assiduously looking at the lease agreement line by line together with the lawyers to exhibit fairness in the whole process so that the interest of the community people and the Company can be ensured” the minister said.
He said after the first and second surveys of the land, no one would be allowed to either cultivate there or to encourage another investor there apart from Quifel Agribusiness who have been approved by law through the community.
He said the community should be confident as the negotiation was never done in isolation; it was participatory with generations to come in mind. He added that, the community would be fully informed about updates of the investment by informing them about gains made and to give some percentage from the proceeds to the community beneficiaries.
“Money is not everything because there is a development package attached to the programnme that will improve on health, water supply, education, feeder roads and the establishment of factories in the community to generate more employment for the labour force” the minister noted.
He said Quifel Agribusiness will give 3 years advance payment, explaining that the company is allowed to do three years advance payment because during the first three years they will be engaged in cultivating the land and other investment with no expected profit initially.
He stated that during the negotiations, the financial benefit for the community especially the land owners was high on the agenda, noting that a percentage of that money will go towards community development fund and the remaining will go directly to the actual land owner and not necessarily those who signed the agreement.
In an interview with the Country Representative of Quifel Agribusiness Rita Rijo said after the signing their first step is to do a survey of the land with the intention of identifying actual areas for development and to also plan their starting date.
She stated that, much expectation is placed on them by the community but maintained that they too need full community support from the community people to actualize their dreams.
With regards the development package for the community she disclosed that a social project component formed part of their programme. This she said required a lot of collaboration from local NGOs to help identify various felt needs of the community so that appropriate development would be provided for the people.
She explained that the whole process started last year 2008 with a lot of research and studies done in all the regions of the country, but they decided to start in the northern region which is very close to the city with good road network as compared to the other regions where the road networks are not too favorable.
The regent chief of Masimera chiefdom Pa Roke Sesay assured the representatives of Quifel Agribusiness of their collective support towards the development of the chiefdom, noting that when it comes to development they do not waste time as the chiefdom had been backward for far too long.
He said investment in the oil palm plantation is a sustainable one because after the expiration of the 49 years lease, the plantation would not be taken away by the company as generations yet unborn will continue to benefit from the investment.
The occasion was climaxed by the signing of the Agreement by representatives from all the sections of Lower Masimera Chiefdom in the presence of Mr Africanus Sorie Sesay, representing the Law Firm of Franklyn Kargbo and Co.
By Solomon Rogers