In May 2010 a Swiss biofuels company, Addax Bioenergy, signed 50 year lease agreements with three chiefdom councils in Sierra Leone acquiring approximately 58,000 acres of land for a sugar cane project. The rent per acre was fixed at US$ 3.60. A draft of the lease had earlier been criticised by civil society organisations as heavily weighted in favour of Addax but those concerns were not addressed in the final lease by the company. Masethele which is part of Malal Mara chiefdom saw its entire land space of 2,796 acres leased out to Addax by the chiefdom council. The villagers would have had nowhere to grow their food.
Masethele refused to acknowledge Addax’s lease of their land as they were dissatisfied with both the substance of the lease and the lack of proper consultations prior to its finalisation. In particular the people were unwilling to sign over to Addax their entire land space and remained resolute even when pressure was applied from above. Namati has been representing the villagers in negotiations with Addax.
This the story of Masethele.
This podcast features contributions from the late Achmed Sesay, a community paralegal and Sonkita Conteh, Namati’s program director in Sierra Leone.