There is a saying that you can fool some of the people some of the time but you cannot fool the people all of the time. One day they are sure to wake up and wise up.

So is it that a deceitful, self-serving Hon. Shiaka Sama for many years succeeded in fooling members of the Malem Land Owners Association (MALOA) into believing that the Socfin Agricultural Company (SAC) which had come to transform their chiefdom by providing employment and many forms of social welfare that improve on the lives of the people was an enemy not a benefactor.

Gradually coming to their senses, the members of MALOA and the people of Sahn Malen chiefdom in Pujehun district, Southern Sierra Leone having seeing that SAC instead of wanting to grab their land without paid adequate compensation have realized that SAC means them well in every sense of the word.

As such, the Machiavellian minded Hon. Shiaka Sama whose hidden agenda was to undermine the authority of the Paramount Chief and traditional authorities has seen those that once stood by him desert him in folds, having seen him for what he is.

Far away from the lies told by Hon. Shiaka Sama and some uniformed organizations that SAC had illegally grabbed thousands of hectares from the people, in actual fact, it was in 2009 that after visiting Socfin’s plantation in Liberia, Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Agriculture officials called on Socfin – a member of the French group Bolloré, to help develop industrial-scale palm oil plantation in Sierra Leone in order to reduce dependency on imports and increase export earnings.

Both the Government of Sierra Leone and Socfin mutually agreed on a suitable site at Sahn Malen. The local authorities headed by the Paramount Chief expressed interest and willingness to work with an investor to develop the chiefdom and the district as a whole. A bottom-up consultation process was initiated with all stakeholders: growers, landowners, traditional chiefs, and community leaders.

It should be noted that Sahn Malen was home to an old palm plantation belonging to the Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Board (SLPMB). When Socfin arrived, the plantation had little commercial value. The trees were over 50 years old.

After receiving the formal consent from the majority of local people in the Sahn Malen community, 18 000 hectares were identified for the project, of which only 12, 500 hectares would be planted.

An agreement was concluded, which states that certain plots of land surrounding the villages and existing dwellings would be maintained to enable landowners who do not wish to be involved in the project to keep their land.

Once the project was in place, agricultural works started in 2011: nursery development and gradual replanting of 12,500 hectares of palm plantations. In 2015 the oil mill was constructed with the aim of becoming the main palm oil supplier on the domestic market and one of the country’s biggest employers.

The cooperation between the Government and the Socfin Group enables the introduction of new agricultural techniques, which ensure the implementation of a soil fertilization program, including the introduction of cover crops on depleted soils and agricultural capacity building.

According to Socfin, only 60% of its acquired land concession has been utilised so as to preserve the wetlands – which most likely have significant flora in order to create high conservation value areas.

The plantation has developed around employing local people from communities to work in the plantation, initially in 2012 and 2013, it was very difficult as the various communities had been compensated for their land.

The company has adopted several measures to protect high conservation value areas by means of implementing a non-planting policy in the swamps – away from villages, creating a green belt around every village and respecting protected forests.

Since its arrival in Sahn Malen, Socfin has not only increased production of palm oil in Sierra Leone, it has created jobs and invested in a range of community development projects, such as health, education, recreational activities and the local economy.

The company has funded the construction and running of a Community Health Centre and staff quarters, powered by solar electricity. It has recently rehabilitated the source of water supply.
Socfin provides funding for the costs of medical care for workers and families and has recently built a new wing which houses administration office, stores, laboratory and doctors consulting room.

Socfin has been instrumental in supporting access to education across the chiefdom. In 2013, the company established a scholarship program to support students in pursuit of their career aspirations.

The Malen Junior Secondary School is the only Junior School in the chiefdom, and in 2013 only attained one pass for a scholarship. The company provides stipends for 9 teachers and 2 security guards, as well paying for the feeding and transportation of pupils during examination. The company has funded the rehabilitation of the school and teachers’ accommodation quarters.
Socfin sponsors local sports competitions, inter-school kid clubs, cultural shows, remedial classes for BECE pupils, summer school debates, and World Teachers Day events.

Local roads network in the chiefdom is second to none, as the company continues to maintain trunk roads within and around the plantations. An example is the Pujehun and Koribundu road.

The company is spending over $120,000 on the maintenance of these roads which have improved communication and access between villages, improving access to the towns and health centres.

The 42km of roads rehabilitated by the company between Sahn-Malen and Koribundu, including culverts and 20km to the south between Malen and Pujehun – including four culverts, continue to attract more businesses into the chiefdom.

Also, telecommunication in the chiefdom has improved immensely and is covering the whole chiefdom. The company engaged Africell to install two antennas (35 meters high).

Both Paramount Chief Kebbie and the Chiefdom Speaker in Malen Chiefdom – Chief Robert Moiguah, who are pleased with SOCFIN bringing sustainable development to the chiefdom, noted that one of the most important initiatives supported by Socfin is the implementation of community programs to ensure food security through mechanized farming.