10 Years after Land Grab, Local Nigerian Farmers Continue Fight against Palm Oil Producer

September 2023
Orji Sunday (farmlandgrab.org)

This investigative article published by Mongabay looks back 10 years at the travails of five communities in Nigeria’s Cross River State, whose land was allocated to Wilmar International for palm oil production, despite strong local opposition. The land in question was originally leased by the communities to the government in 1962, but its Ibiae oil palm plantation, around 5,600 hectares, was then abandoned in 1970s and the land began again to be used by local residents. Local residents accuse Wilmar of encroaching on their farms and contaminating their watercourses with wastewater. The company has been subjected to multiple protests and legal claims, including an unsuccessful appeal to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, and the company denies the veracity of the accusations. Academics and CSOs are critical of Wilmar’s local outgrower schemes, arguing that they contribute to further deforestation. A key issue looked at in the article is that of who owns the land of the original plantations that were abandoned in the 1970s, with local communities citing government failures to pay rent for the original leases after the plantations were abandoned effectively ending the leases. The continuation of disputed claims and challenges to the investment by Wilmar underscore the ongoing relevance of ‘land grabs’ for local communities across Africa, and the complexity of resolving issues arising from them in the face of multiple legal spheres and weak land administration.