Malaysian oil palm giant is said to be wining more support from the people of Grand Cape Mount County, four years on, as the company’s multi million investments is beginning to make greater impacts on citizens’ lives.
The company has created hundreds of jobs, sent scores citizens abroad for specialized trainings, put dozen others on local scholarship, constructed schools and health facilities, and is now rehabilitating and building new roads in its concession areas.
Sando Fahnbulleh, 57 is among the first female town Chiefs for her Village, Karnga. She says her village which is in Zodua Clan is proud to be one of three villages that had surrendered new land to Sime Darby for development into Oil Palm early this year.
Even though Sando’s rubber farm was not qualified to get corps compensation because it falls within a 2 kilometer buffer zone that Sime Darby sets aside to each town as part of SDPL’s policy for land expansion and acquisition, she remains grateful that the nightmare of bad road is over. With good roads, Sando says she and other women will be able to transport food crops to markets nearby for additional income.
The rehabilitation of the more than 40 kilometer road that stretches across Sinjeh to Gbesseh, for almost a week according to Sando is a mark of Fidelity by Sime Darby.
“I woke up one morning to the sound of the yellow machines on our road. When I saw the company fixing our roads it made me feel happy. It shows that we didn’t make the wrong choice by letting Sime Daby in our area, and that we can trust the company.”
Sando said the last time she recalled Zodua road was rehabilitated was in 2007. Since then, her Clan has faced huge challenges of getting vehicles into the area due to bad road. Sick people, pregnant women and children according to the Chief, have borne the blunt of the lack of good roads.
Conditions in the area is very dire, the chief told this paper. According to her, the hope of many people, old and young, would have vanished if Sime Darby had insisted it was not coming to the area because of the challenges it faced in its past over land acquisition in Liberia.
Clinics, roads, and safe drinking water are like luxury in most parts of Liberia, Zodua not excluded.
According to the Chief Sando, Zodua residents were not the only beneficiaries of the road. She said because the only bridge that links Gbarpolu and Grand Cape Mount Counties had spoiled, commuters were now using Zodua road as an alternative route to get their goods to those parts of the country.
Petty Traders in their numbers from different areas were also seen with food and other commodities in Zodua. One of the Traders, Miatta Kaidii said they are aware that people have money in the area because they were getting money for their crops.
“Besides that, plenty people from Monrovia and other parts of the country will soon start to come here. When you bring anything thing like food or regular house whole things people will buy it;” Miatta said.
Morris Sembeh is the general Town Chief of Zodua Clan and a strong opinion leader among his people. He has been General Town Chief for many years before and after the war. As father of 17 children, he believes the best he has done for future of his children was to be a part of the decision to let Sime Darby move into his clan.
Grateful Sembeh, face full of smile, could only but recite the Al Fatiha a verse from the Holy Koran. Chief Sembeh said as a Muslim the verse was usually read for people who need the protection and blessing of God.
“Sime Darby is our true friend. What you’re seeing me doing, the people of Zodua have not done this for any other company. But I can tell you this for sure- I can see a future for our children. I can see a better day for this clan. Zodua is about to open”! Sembeh said with a passionate voice.
Sembeh said he believes the development that Sime Darby will carry on in his clan will far exceed what was done in lower Garwula District.
“Our children are already getting employed, even though Sime Darby is still far from beginning the real work. We were told to recommend some young people from each village to get employed- I was not even expecting this.” Sembeh said.