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Before and after land acquisition: new tools to improve dialogue between companies and communities
For some time, civil society organisations have demanded that communities be consulted before land acquisition by companies, government agencies and financial institutions.
While some companies practising corporate social responsibility or other quality management guidelines do take the step of fulfilling their duty of communicating with communities during the process of acquiring land, how can they be sure that the communities are really understanding and agreeing with the company’s project? Only by setting up an honest dialogue this can be happen and for this, communication is key.
In a joint project, Village Focus International (VFI), international non-profit organisation RECOFTC and agro-forestry company Stora Enso have developed and tested a series of communication tools for Stora Enso’s land team. These tools have been presented the 5th of May at VFI by all three project holders.
The project, funded by MRLG via its quick disbursement fund, is the result of Stora Enso’s desire to improve the communication of their land team with future affected communities. Although it has long incorporated the principles of corporate social responsibility into its practices, Stora Enso is seeking organisations with solid experience in working and training in rural communities to help improve their methods and tools to apply Free Prior Informed Consent (as described in the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure – VGGT of the Food and Agriculture Organization) of before acquiring land from local communities.
Stora Enso was active member in the Learning and Alliance group on Responsible Agribusiness piloted by VFI in 2015-2016, and has invited the group members to visit their company, and further build trust and understanding. With the time, they built trust and a privileged relationship to VFI and RECOFTC and started their joint action in November 2016 for six months.
With training from VFI and RECOFTC, and based on its own practical experiences of liaising with communities during the process of acquiring land, the Stora Enso land team has helped to develop four posters and a short video. The four posters set out in detail the land acquisition process, how to deal with village development fund, what implicates a company and community partnership, and the grievance mechanisms that Stora Enso plans to set up. All the posters have been tested and improved in two distinctive communities. Within the communities, gender group have been formed to assess the varying impact of the communication tools on women and men. Women in particular have benefited from these discussion tools, as they are most often shut out of village meetings and community discussions.
In particular, the short-animated video on FPIC is an effective and powerful tool to explain the process to communities in the process of negotiating land acquisition with large foreign companies.
It is important to note that such communication tools should not be used as a substitute for the special attention given to the reactions of local communities, and the time taken for communities to go through their decision-making process.
The Mekong Region Land Governance project will encourage the dissemination and use of these tools.