Sierra Leone moves towards fairer land-rights law

Under new land-rights laws passed last week, companies seeking to do business in Sierra Leone will need to gain permission from local communities before using their land, Reuters reports. Sierra Leone has historically been a rich source of natural resources for commodities companies, even as 53% of people live below the national poverty line, according to the World Food Programme.

As foreign companies have profited from Sierra Leone’s palm oil, sugarcane and diamonds, locals have complained of environmental damage and under-compensation. Under previous laws, landowners got a state-negotiated rent of $2.50 per acre per year. Under the new law, landowners will negotiate the value of their land directly with investors.

The law has been lauded by environmentalists and land-rights activists. Critics of the legislation have said that it will make investment in Sierra Leone expensive and therefore less desirable, Politico SL reports.

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