Lawyer wins Goldman Prize for risking his life to protect Liberia's forests

Goldman Environmental Prize 2019 recipient for Africa, Alfred Brownell

(CNN)A Liberian lawyer, who stopped the destruction of over half a million acres of the country's tropical forests, has been awarded the prestigious Goldman Environment Prize.

Alfred Brownell, 53, was forced to flee Liberia and remains exiled in the United States after he mounted a campaign against Singapore-controlled Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL), one of the world's biggest palm oil producing companies.
But pursuing the case came at a hefty price for the lawyer who says he faced intimidation and death threats after his campaign
The Goldman Environment Prize will be presented Monday at a ceremony in San Francisco and is awarded annually to six grassroots activists from six different continents who have taken action and risked their lives to protect the planet.
    "Brownell's fearless activism in the face of intimidation, harassment, and death threats has protected 513,500 acres of Liberia's threatened forests - about 94% of the forest leased to GVL," the awarding body said in a statement.
    Other winners of the top environment prize include South American activist Alberto Curamil and Ana Colovic Lesoska from North Macedonia who spent seven years campaigning against two large hydropower plants planned for the national park.

    A struggling economy

    In 2010, the Liberian government leased 543,600 acres of land to GVL to cultivate palm oil in Sinoe County in Liberia's southwest in a bid to attract foreign direct investment into the country struggling to get back on its feet after years of a cold-civil war that depleted the nation's economy.
    But protests broke out against the company shortly after it began operation over allegations that GVL was clearing rainforests and it did not obtain people's consent before taking over their land.
    Residents complained their sacred sites, and ancestral graves were being wiped out in the process.
    "The traditional leaders came to my office to intervene, that their farmlands were being wiped out. We saw how bulldozers were clearing their farms, tree crops, and palm oil plantation," said Brownell.
    CNN has made repeated attempts to obtain a comment from GVL but did not immediately receive a response.

    Protecting endangered wildlife, forests

    To stop the clearing of