The management of Sime Darby Plantation Liberia (SDPL) says it looks forward to resuming full operations here once the country is declared Ebola freed.
The Malaysian company scaled down operations following the devastated outbreak of the Ebola virus about six months ago, but has maintained 2,800 local workers, who continue to receive benefits, including subsidized food and free healthcare.
“Liberia is going through a very difficult time and SDPL made the decision to continue operations and maintain local staff strength despite scaling back. Hopefully, we will be free of Ebola this year and full operations can resume. Sime Darby wants to continue with its plans as a long-term investor,” said Roslin Azmy Hassan, Head of Operations for SDPL.
New Ebola cases have reduced significantly in Liberia so far, while Nigeria and Mali have been declared free of Ebola by the World Health Organization.
For SDPL, another important consideration for resuming full-scale operation is to uphold the company’s high social and environmental standards, including protection of High Carbon Stock area as an additional environmental yardstick.
At the international level, Sime Darby, together with a group of major palm oil companies, is undertaking a high carbon study to determine which forested area cannot be cleared beyond primary forests. The study will also consider Liberia’s right to develop land and that will help to assist the economy and its people. The study is being currently conducted by a group of renowned scientists and is due to be completed at the end of 2015.
To fulfill this commitment, Sime Darby has put on hold any new land clearing for oil palm worldwide, including in Liberia. The moratorium on new land clearing was discussed with the Goverment of Liberia and also with the affected communities, namely Zodua Clan.
“The people of Zodua have good relationship with Sime Darby and we hope that Sime Darby will continue its operation,” said Baokai Kormah, chairman of Zodua Land Committee.
The company and the government representatives had met with Zodua leaders on several occasions and explained the rationale for the moratorium. Prior to the stop work order, SDPL had already cleared 350 ha of the concession area. To maintain 120 jobs for Zodua residents, the company has been organizing work programmes for them such as holing, stacking and planting on the 122 ha of land that has been already cleared.
The last 12 months have been difficult for the country due to unprecedented outbreak of the Ebola virus.
SDPL had been working closely with local communities, civil society organizations, and Ebola Treatment Centres to provide much needed food, fuel, chlorine and other medical supplies. Strict precautionary measures were introduced to guard SDPL employees from contracting the virus.
SDPL’s clinic has been one of the very few that was open to the public, free of charge, during the whole Ebola outbreak period. SDPL has also equipped two of its vehicles to serve as ambulances to transport people suspected of Ebola.
Furthermore, the company established a partnership with Red Cross in Liberia and donated $157,000 in support of its program in GCM and Bomi counties. The company has also donated 5.7 million medical gloves worth $157,000 to the Government of Liberia.