Disillusioned But Not Defeated: How a Rural Village Took on a Foreign Investor
McKinley Charles (Namati)
Before the company’s arrival in 2011, the people of Ngovokpahun village had used their land to grow cocoa and other cash crops to help them pay for their children’s education. But when Italian Agriculture offered to build them a school, health centre and roads, provide them with employment and pay rent, leasing out the land seemed a wise option. The company drafted the agreement and the landowners signed. More than 5 years later, Italian Agriculture had not fulfilled a single promise. There was no school, health centre, roads or jobs. The company cultivated the land but rarely paid for it on time or in full. The landowners called Namati, Sierra Leone’s toll-free legal advice line. Its paralegals held a series of legal literacy sessions with all of Ngovokpahun’s youth and adults in attendance. At a second meeting the two parties agreed on a set of plans and targets for remedying the wrongs.