When a multi national palm oil company expanded into Sierra Leone, rainforests were leveled and local livelihoods disappeared. Some say that this is the price of development while others want their land back.

Socfin, company which is registered in Switzerland but has its headquarters in Belgium, has over the past four years planted 12,432 hectacre (30,720 acres) of oil palms in Sierra Leone. The company came to Sahn Malen in 2012 and leased swaths of land. It planted oil palms and built an ultra-modern processing plant.

Palm oil is the planet's new "super oil." According to the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), palm oil is present in about half of all products in supermarkets in Germany. It's in cakes, margarine, make-up and ice cream. It is also used as a bio diesel in the European Union (EU). The global consumption of palm oil is growing. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts that consumption will double by 2050. So it is not surprising that investment in palm oil is climbing.

However the oil is controversial. Some say that is could be a potent tool against global poverty especially in countries where it is already a staple food and where increases in yield could benefit many of these emerging markets. Others say that the spread of palm oil plantations is a threat to rainforests and the indigenous people who live there.

 
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After washing the fruits Jabbie separates the palm oil in her family's palm oil plantation in Kassah village in the Malen Chiefdom in Pujehun district of Sierra Leone, West Africa, on 15.12.2015. After the palm fruits are harvested they are cooked and then stamped. Then farmers wash the stamped fruit and separate the oil from the water.

Africa has become a playground for foreign investors. With new resource discoveries across the continent, governments are selling off land to multinational extraction companies promising to bring development to the people. Instead, this investment has shown to come at the severe expense of indigenous communities.

 
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View of the 12 500 ha palm oil plantation belonging to Socfin Agricultural Company (SAC) in Sahn Malen, in the Malen Chiefdom in Pujehun district of Sierra Leone, West Africa, on 11.12.2015 seen from a fire tower. The 'high rise' plants in background indicate the location of the villages within Socfin's concession area.

 
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Palm oil fruits are seen on a boat in Kortumahun, a village in the Malen Chiefdom in Pujehun district of Sierra Leone, West Africa, on 13.12.2015. Kortumahun was the first village approached by the investor in 2011. Now 64 of 69 villages in Malen Chiefdom are in the hands of the investor.

 
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Plantation labourers Morin and Suliaman Jabbeh during their harvesting work in the palm oil plantation belonging to Socfin Agricultural Company (SAC) in Sahn Malen, in the Malen Chiefdom in Pujehun district of Sierra Leone, West Africa, on 14.12.2015. Plantation workers at Socfin are paid by tasks. In order to receive their salary, which is usually not higher than the minimum national wage of 100 dollars per month, they have to complete all the tasks given to them by their employer, which many of them claim to be too high.

 
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Children stand near "Secret forest" in Sahn Malen, in the Malen Chiefdom in Pujehun district of Sierra Leone, West Africa, on 13.12.2015.

 
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Children stand near the drums in which Auntie Fascia processes and boils the palm fruits harvested in her "garden" near the village of Kassah in the Malen Chiefdom in Pujehun district of Sierra Leone, West Africa, on 14.12.2015. Fascia is one of a few residents who refused to give up their ancestral land.

 
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Crashed palm oil fruits are seen on a boat in Kortumahun, a village in the Malen Chiefdom in Pujehun district of Sierra Leone, West Africa, on 13.12.2015. Kortumahun was the first village approached by the investor in 2011. Now 64 of 69 villages in Malen Chiefdom are in the hands of the investor.

 
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Hanna, founding member and activist of MALOA (Malen Land Owners and Users Association) is preparing dinner in the kitchen of her home in Sahn Malen, in the Malen Chiefdom in Pujehun district of Sierra Leone, West Africa, on 12.12.2015. There is no electricity or running water in Sahn Malen. Local residents prepare their food with fire and firewood. Staple foods are rice, plantains, cassava and palm oil.

 
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Children are bathing in a local river near the village of Kassah in the Malen Chiefdom in Pujehun district of Sierra Leone, West Africa, on 14.12.2015.

 
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Nearly ripe palm fruits on a small scale oil palm plantation in Malen Chiefdom in Pujehun district of Sierra Leone, West Africa, is seen on 14.12.2015.

 
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Worker Hawa during the harvest of a oil palm tree. With a so called "climber" he climbs up the tree to release the palm fruits from under the leaves in Sima Mattia's palm oil plantation in Kassah village in the Malen Chiefdom in Pujehun district of Sierra Leone, West Africa, on 15.12.2015.

 
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Jabbie washes the palm fruits of her family's palm oil plantation in Kassah village in the Malen Chiefdom in Pujehun district of Sierra Leone, West Africa, on 15.12.2015.. After the palm fruits are harvested they are cooked and then stamped. Then farmers wash the stamped fruit and separate the oil from the water.

 
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Fascia, one of the few residents in the chiefdom who fought to keep her land, is standing among freshly harvested palm fruits in her "garden" near the village of Kassah in the Malen Chiefdom in Pujehun district of Sierra Leone, West Africa, on 14.12.2015.

 
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Fascia, one of the few residents who kept her land, is posing with her extended family in the village of Banaleh in the Malen Chiefdom in Pujehun district of Sierra Leone, West Africa, on 14.12.2015.

 
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Residents of Sahn Malen, in the Malen Chiefdom in Pujehun district of Sierra Leone, West Africa, on 11.12.2015, are playing chess during the late noon hours.

 
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Children walk in village Jao Malen in the Malen Chiefdom in Pujehun district of Sierra Leone, West Africa, on 14.12.2015.

 
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Palm oil cans are seen on suburb of Freetown in Sierra Leone, West Africa, on 16.12.2015.

 
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A sign "Socfin goodbye Estate-A" is seen near palm oil plantation belonging to Socfin Agricultural Company in Sahn Malen, in the Malen Chiefdom in Pujehun district of Sierra Leone, West Africa, on 13.12.2015.

 
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Mother and a child walk near palm oil plantation belonging to
Socfin Agricultural Company in Sahn Malen, in the Malen
Chiefdom in Pujehun district of Sierra Leone, West Africa, on
13.12.2015.

 
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Workers clothes are seen in Sahn Malen, in the Malen Chiefdom in Pujehun district of Sierra Leone, West Africa, on 13.12.2015 near the tailor shop, producing clothes for workers of Socfin Agricultural Company.

 
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Palm oil plantation belonging to Socfin Agricultural Company (SAC) is seen in the background near the entry to Sahn Malen, the biggest village in Malen Chiefdom in Pujehun district of Sierra Leone, West Africa, on 12.12.2015.

 
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Socfin workers present some bottles of the palm oil they produced in Sahn Malen, in the Malen Chiefdom, in Pujehun district of Sierra Leone, West Africa, on 12.12.2015, during a year end party organised by the foreign investor.

 
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Palm oil is seen to be sold in a market in city Pujehun in Sierra Leone, West Africa, on 16.12.2015.