SOCFIN Agricultural Business Company (SAC) convened a consultative engagement with the Malen Affected Land Owners Association (MALOA) on September 19, 2023.

The meeting, held in Malen Chiefdom brought together key stakeholders to discuss critical matters surrounding land rights and compensation.

The General Manager of SAC, in his address during the engagement, highlighted the company’s commitment to resolving the issue. He revealed that SAC submitted a crucial document to PC Victor Brima Sidi Kebbie III of Malen Chiefdom, which required the signature of all parties involved, including MALOA. Unfortunately, the document was returned without the representative of MALOA signing it. The General Manager stressed the importance of MALOA’s signature for the document’s authenticity and insisted on its inclusion.

Furthermore, the General Manager shared that SAC had initiated contact with the newly established National Lands Commission of Sierra Leone, under the leadership of Sheikh Shuibu Siddy Sowa. He announced that SAC would be the first company to undergo this commission’s land documentation process, beginning with identifying landowners. This process involves visiting each community to ascertain land ownership and ensuring that land lease payments are disbursed to the appropriate beneficiaries.

During the engagement, a representative from MALOA raised concerns about incomplete compensation payments. Specifically, they asked what would happen if a landowner’s survey showed 500 acres, but they had only been compensated for 200 acres.

In response, the General Manager assured that SAC maintains a list of landowners who have received payments, which is accessible through the Liaison Department. He explained that the document would indicate if someone had not yet received their payment. Additionally, the General Manager revealed that due to the company not previously visiting communities to verify land ownership, village representatives projected over 6000 landowners in the Chiefdom, which resulted in over 30 billion Leones in compensation claims.

Representatives from MALOA reiterated their ongoing advocacy for fair compensation to the rightful beneficiaries, expressing concerns about the delays. They emphasized the importance of addressing these issues to avoid further conflicts.

The General Manager disclosed that the President of Sierra Leone, Julius Maada Bio, had directed Chief Minister David Moinina Sengeh to oversee land matters in Malen, which were previously under the purview of Vice President Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh. He clarified that compensation is distributed in percentages, with the Chiefdom receiving 20%, the council receiving 20%, the Pujehun District Council receiving 10%, and 50% going to the landowners themselves.

A representative from MALOA expressed hope for a peaceful resolution following the corrections made during the engagement, especially with an indigenous leader, Dr. David Moinina Sengeh, at the helm of affairs in the Chiefdom.

As they await the visitation of the National Lands Commission of Sierra Leone and representatives from the Lands Ministry, MALOA stressed the importance of involving all necessary Chiefdom and District stakeholders in the process. They also urged SAC to continue engaging with communities to identify the rightful landowners, rather than relying solely on chiefs, as some chiefs in certain communities are not local and may lack familiarity with the area.

In conclusion, MALOA representatives expressed satisfaction with the engagement, and the General Manager of SAC reassured them of the company’s commitment to ongoing dialogue and addressing any grievances that arise during this crucial process.