Helping communities while protecting the environment

Helping communities while protecting the environment

SMFG seeks to meet the double objective in villages surrounding its mining project and the Mount Nimba World Heritage Site (WHS) of improving local living standards in ways meaningful to local communities, and drawing threats away from environmentally sensitive areas, especially the Mount Nimba WHS.

A key component of this will be to support local communities and authorities to plan and implement sustainable land-uses in their traditional territories. This is particularly important in view of the risk of unmanaged population influx and unplanned land occupation, which could cause significant local environmental and social problems.

Pilot Land-Use Planning in Gbakoré

At Gbakoré, a village near SMFG’s Nimba Iron Ore Project, SMFG supported participatory land-use planning in 2013, in which traditional and official authorities jointly thought through the village’s current and future needs in terms of infrastructure, land and natural resources.

They planned where roads should go, along with public buildings like markets, schools, health facilities, a youth centre and religious centres. To avoid spontaneous settlements, they planned where future development of the village would occur, and where it would be forbidden due to considerations like protection of water courses, sacred sites or the Mount Nimba WHS. This land-use plan was suspended due to the Ebola virus crisis but will be revitalised.

Land Suitability and Further Land-Use Planning

In 2018, SMFG commissioned a study on local land uses and the agricultural suitability of land around the Guinean Nimba Mountains. Based on this study, which provides an objective biophysical basis for land-use planning, SMFG has offered to sponsor participatory land-use planning, village-by-village, for villages adjacent to the Mount Nimba WHS.

These would serve as masterplans for agricultural support and villages’ future infrastructure and expansion, in manners consistent with the sustainable development and conservation objectives of the Biosphere Reserve. They would also be fully grounded in traditional, village-level land-tenure systems which direct de facto how land is used in rural areas.

A plan is worth nothing unless it is implemented. SMFG hopes to support these locally developed land-use plans with tangible assistance starting when the first pilot plans are adopted. Over the longer term, when the mechanisms for redistribution of revenues from mining provide significant annual resources for development in Lola Prefecture, these land-use plans will provide the roadmaps for the area’s sustainable development.