Thursday, 13 June 2013

The partner work of Oakland Institute, WWF and Greenpeace helped stopping hunge land grabbing case in Cameroon

A massive palm oil plantation project of 60,000 hectares developed in Cameroon in 2009 by a subsidiary company of venture capital firm Herakles Capital, was stopped on 18 May 2013 by an order of the Cameroonian Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife .
This story reveals the strategy used by multinational investment funds to take possessions of lands in Africa and take advantage of competitive rental prices, concessional clauses and poor legal enforcement procedures in developing  countries.

1 - In the early stages, the project was presented as a valuable initiative to support the sustainable development of the territory in North Western Cameroon, to favour the employment of locals and ensure the constructions of basic facilities like schools, hospitals and roads in remote areas.

2 - However, the successive steps of this initiative showed the real purposes of the project as testified by official documents of the company circulated by the Oakland Institute:

  • Disregarding the local opposition, Herakles Farms moved forward with the removal of the rainforest for the establishment of massive tree nurseries for palm oil plants. This action permanently destroyed forests with their unique heritage of biodiversity. Furthermore, In order to move more rapidly on their project, the company quitted the Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a certification scheme designed to promote global social and environmental standards for palm oil production. Without such international oversight, the company intended to accelerate the development of the plantation. 
  • A report on Herakles’ development by Cameroonian non-governmental organisation Centre for Environment and Development (CED) alleges that the concession agreement breached both the spirit and the letter of Cameroon law. 
  • As per similar investments registered in Central and West Africa, the agreement included extremely generous investment terms, including a total exemption from all taxes and duties for ten years. The only payment required under the oil palm concession agreement between Herakles and the Cameroonian government was based on an annual ‘area rent’, which was going to provide just US$66,000 a year to the government once all of the land was planted
  • Herakles has vigorously denied allegations of illegality, and stated that it is, “not receiving any special treatment putting the company above the law”.Herakles has countered the allegations stating that “millions of dollars” of additional revenue will be generated by sale of timber on the land which Herakles will cut, trim and stack ready for auction by the Cameroonian government. However, internal Herackels documents published by the Oakland Institute demonstrated that the Company rather than spending the timber revenues for medical services, university scholarships and farming programmes intended to distribute the revenues as dividends to its creditors and investors. Further information

Concession area for the palm oil plantation

Satellite picture of the concession in the Ndian, Kupé-Manengouba, and Manyu Divisions.

Herakles Farms discharged all these allegations by stating that the terms of the agreement with the Government of Cameroon couldn't be discussed for confidential reasons.

Most affected African countries by land grabbing per hectares (Land Matrix source)