Sierra Leone arrests 39 in oil palm land lease dispute

Wed Oct 12, 2011 7:59pm GMT

* Locals protest farmland deal with SOCFIN

* Police take some of those arrested to Bo

* SOCFIN part of France's Bollare Group

By Simon Akam

FREETOWN, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Sierra Leone authorities have arrested 39 protesters in the south of the West African nation, following tensions between the local population and a unit of international agro-investor Socfin .

The locals were protesting a multi-million dollar land deal in which the government is leasing to Societe Financiere des Caoutchoucs (Socfin) 12,500 hectares for oil palm production in the Pujehun district.

The initial phase of the deal is worth $112 million.

Green Scenery, an NGO in Sierra Leone, said some locals have complained they were not properly consulted and were not given information concerning the deal, signed in April.

Farmland in many developing countries has attracted foreign investors in recent years, but a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation official last year warned some big land lease deals might risk deepening poverty and ramping up social tensions.   Continued...

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