Palm oil development and production company Equatorial Palm Oil announced on Thursday that its Liberian operation has signed a memorandum of understanding with designated community leaders over four key areas on its Palm Bay estate, to allow development to proceed.
The AIM-traded firm said the MOU was signed between its EPO Liberia division, community elders, leaders and residents of Tarlo Town, Blayah Town, Nuhn Town and Qlakpojelay.
It said a "detailed list of signatories" demonstrating an accurate cross-section of the community areas have signed the MOU, including some of the communities not currently in favour of the development.
The signing ceremony followed a process in which EPO Liberia and the community elders jointly mapped the areas which can and cannot be developed for oil palm.
"The agreement with local communities follows a substantive process between all parties to actively conclude a pathway forward for sustainable development of our oil palm operations," said EPO's general manager - commercial Sandy Barblett.
"The MOU with the communities at Palm Bay estate forms the background to allow us to move forward in creating a new palm oil industry in Liberia that conforms to the local community's needs and international best practice standards."
Barblett said the MOU shows the tangible benefits of the work the company has undertaken in the last two years to actively engage with all stakeholders, and consider all interests relating to oil palm development on its estates.
The full terms agreed as part of the MOU include:
The company will not develop or plant oil palm on the priority land areas where the Community does not want the Company to develop its oil palm plantation.
A map presented as Annex 1 to the MOU illustrates the priority land area where the Community does not want the Company to develop its oil palm plantation.
The Company will proceed with its land development in areas ceded by Consented communities in the Phase 1 boundary as guided by its Sustainability Policy.
The Company will only develop the remainder of the concession land outside of the Phase 1 boundary with adherence to the principles of FPIC ("free, prior and informed consent").
The Company is allowed to conduct its FPIC processes within the concession land and will respect the decision of all communities.