Summary of findings of Natural Women’s Resource Platform (NRWP)’s research on the impacts of large scale rubber concessions on women in Liberia
Key words: Lack of consultation, Food insecurity and water shortage, Destruction of traditional values
Research methods used: Focus group discussions, individual interviews, transect walk. The research also involved 6 young researchers who were trained on digital storytelling and gathered footage and interviews in their communities using smartphones (see videos below). Photos were also taken of destroyed areas (graves, farmland, houses, towns, photos of some areas in the plantation etc.) in the communities.
Young activists participating in a 2-day digital storytelling workshop
Main findings: The research took place in 3 communities affected by large-scale rubber plantations: Kuwah Ta, Kolleh Darpolu and Dokai-Ta. The plantations were established and are run by Salala Rubber Corporation (SRC). SRC is owned by Socfin, a company registered in Luxembourg. Responses gathered during the focus groups discussions and interviews with about 90 community members show that the communities were not involved in the initial state of the concession agreement or negotiation process. The concession was signed in 1959 by representatives of the government of Liberia without the consent of the communities. Most of the members from the research communities stated that they only saw people clearing the land and when they asked, they were informed that the government gave the land to them.
Community members interviewed reported losing access to a significant proportion of their ancestral forestland, which was their source of livelihood. Before the company arrival, the communities had large land space with a huge population. Women and men were involved with large farming, hunting, fishing etc. There was a range of farming (large farms like coco, rubber, rice etc.) in addition to hunting and fishing from creeks and rivers. The communities used to fetch water from the stream, and it was safe for drinking, washing and cooking.
After the arrival of the company, this way of living changed completely. Forest destruction and forced grabs make it impossible for community members to farm the land, hunt and fish. Their livelihood now depends on precarious income deriving from activities such as busting palm kernel, small contracts (bushing, cleaning rubber cups and cutting grass), gardening and production of farina (gari). In addition, rivers and other sources of water appear to be contaminated by the chemicals used in the plantation and people experience several health issues such as skin rashes and stomach ache after drinking and bathing in the water. This has also affected the fish stock to the extent that fishing is not viable anymore. Community members and women in particular, live in poverty.
The arrival of the company has not brought any benefit to the community. Very few jobs were provided against significant losses of livelihood for most community members. While the company built a school, this is only available to children of company workers. As there are not other schools nearby, many of them are not enrolled and there is a high illiteracy rate in the communities.
Lastly, the research team has observed a general sense of fear of reprisals among community members interviewed who are contracted by the company and depend on it for their meager income.
Watch the videostories developed by community researchers: