Sustainable Development Institute
Synchronicity Earth has supported Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) since 2012 for its work to challenge destructive palm oil concessions in Liberia.
Liberia is home to 45% of the remaining Upper Guinean rainforest in West Africa. These forests and their associated biodiversity, as well as the rural communities that depend on them for their livelihoods, are under immense threat from destructive activities such as logging, mining and large scale agricultural concessions. A complex political history involving two recent civil wars has led to massive internal displacement in Liberia, leaving many people homeless and unsettled. At the same time, many of the activities which threaten forests have often been tied up with this conflict (e.g. conflict timber). Arguably the most imminent threat facing Liberia’s forests today is large scale palm oil concessions. As companies become limited in the land they can acquire for palm oil in South East Asia, they are turning to Africa, where land seems to be more ‘available’ given the lack of secure community land tenure, increasing political stability and cheap labour. At the same time, African governments are looking for foreign investments to grow their GDP and promote more ‘development’ opportunities.
SDI works at the local and national level to improve forest governance by securing customary land rights in policy and practice in Liberia. It informs and mobilises communities to challenge palm oil companies, whilst at the same time engaging the government to ensure that the way concessions are granted is more transparent and has rules in place to protect communities and areas of high biodiversity.