Palmoil in Cameroon
This blog is also about Conservation projects and campaigns and i always wanted to write a little post about the campaign i am involved in since the very start.
As part of the SAVE Wildlife Conservation Fund i engage myself against a huge palmoil-plantation in south west Cameroon. A big American concern tries to establish a 70.000 hectare big plantation right in the middle of several world-famous national parks such as the Korup National Park.
The plantation is suited in the Guinean Forests of West Africa, a biodiversity hotspot especially known for its many endemic species of plants and primates.
Herakles, an US company based on Caiman island through his local subsidy SGSOC leased several thousand hectare of land right between five protected areas. Today the surface of the concession is covered with dense forests with mayor parts never been cleared before. Furthermore the area is dense populated with people from different tribes living from small-scale agriculture and some ecotourism. Many people opposed the planed plantation because of bad experiences with similar projects or simply because they could not understand why they should leave their traditional land, their sacred sites and community forests to some foreign investor focused on making big profit in developing lands.
The situation is kind of awkward as Herakles tries to promote the project as “sustainable” and some kind of infrastructural development for Cameroon. The founder of Herakles Farms also founded an NGO called “All-for-Africa”, which advertises in planting millions of oil palms all over africa. Although generally sustainable investments in africa are welcome in my opinion the company made numerous grave mistakes:
- They ignored all public protests in the beginning of the project. Many village people are not in favor with the scale and way of implementation of the plantation.They fear that their lifestyle, their cultural heritage and way of living will be lost.
- They ignored legal concerns about the concession. Although in August 2011 a Cameroon judge ordered to stop the plantation work immediately, the workers carried the construction on despite the legal ruling.
- They didn’t listen to protests and concerns of many scientists all over the world. The planed concession will split the whole network of protected areas in the vicinity apart and will heavily contribute to the on-going fragmentation of African rain forests.
- They ignored that mayor parts of the concession inhabit endemic and rare species and considerable amounts of old-growth forests. Herakles ordered many ESIAs (Environmental and Social Impact Assessments), which all have been heavily criticized by scientific networks being badly done and way under standard procedures for other projects of this scale.
- They still wanted to label their project as sustainable according to the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palmoil). In consequence of our heavy protest Herakles became the first company in recent years to withdraw their RSPO application due to international protest.
The topic received world-wide media attention from several renown blogs, magazines and newspapers. For further reading i recommend the articles by Mongabay and Yale360 written by Rhett Butler. People with german skills might also read the interview with Lars from SAVE at the german newspaper “Die Zeit“. Corey Bradshaw from Conservationbytes.com also shared the open letter from several popular scientists. Or just google for “Cameroon+Palmoil” and you will certainly find enough information from different sources to make your opinion on the project.
Our Protests have been successful until now, but a stop of the plantation project is nowhere in sight. Herakles is steadily moving onwards despite the loss of the RSPO certificate and international protests, knowing that once the forests around Korup National Park have been cleared it will be to late. The German Federal Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development (Dirk Niebel) will soon visit the area around Korup and speak with the opposition of the project. Germany has always been a long term supporter of real sustainable resource utilization in many African countries and i really hope that his visits will somehow make a difference. Meanwhile we will keep protesting and support real development and conservation actions in Africa.
best regards and have a nice week