The program commenced late in 2013 and it is the intention of GPPOL to visit a number of predetermined communities to promote the benefits of allowing oil palm operations to be carried out on their lands.
It is suggested that there may be sufficient land available in the area to be able to duplicate the current operations located on Guadalcanal Plains.
Much of the land has been previously logged and oil palm development will lead to continuing development in the area should the lands be suitable for development.
The purpose of the meetings are to get official permission from the customary landowners for GPPOL to enter their lands to carry out surveys to identify suitable land, do environmental and social studies and if considered feasible lead to the registration, leasing and finally development of the land.
GPPOL Sustainability Manager, Andrew Kerr said that “our awareness program has been very well received by the local people and they are very keen for an oil palm project to take place in their areas”.
He said now that logging operations have finished they are worried how they are going to get their basic necessities such as roads and access to basic medical care.
“Road conditions in particular is a major issue. This was highlighted to us by the fact that our awareness program was supposed to be completed by now but has been severely hampered by the wet weather experienced earlier in the year; even now some roads are impassable after rain damage.
“One of the main topics arising from question time at these sessions is lack of proper roads and maintenance of existing roads.”
So far there have been three meetings.
The first late last year at Komubolu village at Reko, the second at Ruavatu and the latest, last weekend, at New Tenubuti village.
There are further meetings proposed in the near future at Aola and East Thasimboko and the Expansion Team is optimistic about the opportunities being seen.
GPPOL are keen to see expansion especially in the East of Guadalcanal and the plans include new infrastructure and a possible mill should suitable land be available.
GPPOL Estate Manager Craig Gibsone stated that “whilst the Company is targeting East Guadalcanal due to the proximity to the existing operations and availability of minimal infrastructure GPPOL are interested in other areas of the Solomon Islands that have suitable land, have communities willing to work together and see the longer term future of Oil Palm.
“We have been here a number of years now and have shown our commitment and we wish to grow,” Mr Gibsone said.
“Once we have commenced and planted Oil Palm that means we are there for the life of the Palm, at least 25 years and prefer 50 year leases, we won’t be a short term operation,” he added.