Palm oil is one of the last decade, emerging commodities It is the cheapest edible oil, and the most suitable ingredient for biofuels. The oil palm is an African plant. After a huge expansion of industrial plantation in South-est Asia, now the oil palm is coming badk to Africa, in form of industrial plantations. Like other places where expansion has occurred rapidly, the crop is spurring hope for economic development while generating controversy over its potential impacts. T
hese impacts has been already experienced in Indonesia and Malaysia, where the rapid expansion of oil palm plantations led to massive deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss, conflicts with local people, social displacement, and poor working conditions.
One of the first cases of land conflict of oil palm plantation in Africa was exposed by Centre pour l'Environnement et le Développement (CED) in Camerun. It's report , "The 12th trial Herakles" the group highlight the social and environmental impacts of the project.
Herakles, a New York-based investment firm is planning to construct a 60,000-hectare plantation, in the middle of one of Africa's most biodiverse and threatened landscapes. The 99-year lease granted to the firm by the Cameroonian government is adjacent to several important nature parks and is set to replace forests and small farms.
Environmental groups led by SAVE Wildlife Conservation Fund of Germany warn the plantation will destroy rainforest and overturn the lives of local people.
In a letter signed by members of more than 80 civil society organizations, conservationists warn that the development may threaten primary rainforest as well forest areas dubbed High Conservation Value Forests (HCVF). The plantation site lies near four protected areas, including world-renowned Korup National Park, home to over 600 species of trees, nearly 200 reptiles and amphibians, an estimated 1,000 butterflies, 400 species of birds, and 160 species of mammals including one of the richest assemblages of primates in the world. Korup has fourteen species of primates, including red-eared guenon (Cercopithecus erythrotis), listed as Vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN Red List; the drill (Mandrillus leucophaeus), Endangered; and Preuss s red colobus monkey (Piliocolobus preussi), Critically Endangered; and the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes ellioti), the most imperiled of the world's chimpanzee subspecies. Forest elephants, leopards, bushpigs, duikers, bush-tailed porcupines, and forest buffalo roam the lowland rainforest as well.
Environmentalists warn that the palm oil plantation will disrupt important wildlife routes between Korup National Park (to the north), Rumpi Hills Forest Reserve (south), Bakossi National Park and Banyang Mbo Wildlife Sanctuary (both to the east), essentially isolating populations and preventing them from dispersing and intermingling. Forest elephants, which scientists argue may be a distinct species from Africa's better-known savanna elephants, are said to cross between Korup and Rumpi. A plantation, half the size of Korup National Park, could present an insurmountable barrier for the elephants, say environmentalists. In Southeast Asia, palm oil plantations have built elephant ditches and electric fences to keep the often-destructive animals away from their commodities.
The US-based corporation’s subsidiary in Cameroon, SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC) presented a High Conservation Value (HCV) assessment, but an independent assessment by the High Conservation Value Resource Network Technical Panel has shown the SGSOC commissioned assessment to be deeply flawed. The RSPO is now faced with two formal complaints filed by WWF and SAVE and has been criticized by Cameroonian and international organizations as well as scientists.
After a recent field trip in the area, Greenpeace reported that people fear they will lose their land and their livelihoods to the US-based corporation’s subsidiary in Cameroon, SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC). Many farmers in the area are self-employed, growing cacao, taro and maize, among other fruits and vegetables. SGSOC has not presented any maps indicating the inner boundaries of the proposed palm oil concession, leaving villagers in the dark as to how much farmland they actually stand to lose.
During a visit by the Governor of the South West Region to Fabe and Toko on June 6, local people wore t-shirts with the slogan “SGSOC out – no plantation in our land”, and put up a banner saying: “Mr Governor, welcome to Toko municipality. We say no to SGSOC/Herakles Farms”. Villagers in Fabe also placed traditional juju symbols, such as palm leaves, at the entrance to the plantation, to prevent SGSOC workers from entering. These protests have been met with severe intimidation and arrests. Protesters were summoned to Mundemba police station and several villagers have been arrested for several days.
Despite claims to the contrary, the farm will not deliver a financial windfall. According to Greenpeace, Herakles Farms somehow managed to negotiate a contract that is exceedingly favorable for the company. For instance, the company has received major tax breaks and the surface rents are so incredibly low (US$1 per hectare) that taxes will contribute almost nothing to state revenue, while for a full 99 years SGSOC pays no import or export duties. It is even unclear if Cameroon labour laws will cover employees of the plantation.
Herakles Farms is racing to hide this sort of news and will instead continue to talk about "collaboration", "community support" and "economic growth".
There are also concerns over the project date back prior to Herakles ownership. The concession was originally controlled by Sithe Global, which is owned by the Blackstone Group L.P., a giant, New York-based private equity and asset management company. But Sithe Global sold the holdings named SG Sustainable Oils Cooperatif (SGSO) to Herakles Farms in 2009. Even though campaigners have made it a target, Blackstone has not had any connection to the project since the sale.