A key ingredient in many foodstuffs and cosmetics, palm oil is among the world’s cheapest edible oils and increasingly one of the most popular.Demand from emerging economies such as India and China as well as a growing reliance on biofuels in Europe and elsewhere means global production is only set to grow.
The environmental damage that can be caused when expansion of industrial production continues unchecked and the undeniable link between palm oil and deforestation can be witnessed via the destroyed peatlands and rainforests in Indonesia, the world’s largest producer.
Now Africa, the natural home of the oil palm, is firmly in the sights of the world’s leading agribusiness companies.
Read our new report Herakles Farms in Cameroon, A showcase in bad palm oil production
Palm oil’s new frontier
Africa as a whole – despite a tradition of palm oil production deeply embedded in many local cultures and practices and the fact the oil palm tree is native to the continent – is still a relatively minor player when it comes to global output. Only Nigeria produces anywhere close to even a million tonnes a year.
However, this is set to change, as capacity reaches saturation point in major producers Indonesia and Malaysia, the world’s biggest palm oil companies are looking to Africa to help satisfy increasing and unending global demand.
Such expansion can represent an opportunity for local economies, but also represents severe threats to local livelihoods, local environments and the global climate.
Click here to read Greenpeace International’s research briefer on palm oil expansion in Africa.
Countries in Africa at a crossroads
In recent years hundreds of thousands of hectares of land in sub-Saharan Africa have been leased or sold to foreign corporations, governments or individuals.
Many of these deals are opaque in nature and can be seen as part of a wider land grab.
African countries currently face a decision between allowing corporations to encroach upon their lands and expand into their natural rainforests in pursuit of the illusion of short-term economic benefits or choosing a path of sustainable development that puts the protection of their natural resources and their livelihoods first.
Herakles Farms : Wrong Project, Wrong Place
The efforts by US company Herakles Farms to turn vast tracts of Cameroonian natural forest into a palm oil plantation exemplify the huge environmental and social threats facing Africa’s forests if the expansion of large-scale palm oil production on the continent continues unchecked and without adequate safeguards.
If not stopped the development would cause widespread environmental damage in an area of great biodiversity surrounded by five protected areas. Furthermore it would affect communities living within the concession area who are reliant on the land for their livelihoods. Despite the claims of Herakles CEO that he is addressing a “dire humanitarian need” longstanding local opposition to the proposed plantation continues to grow.
Fighting to save Africa’s richest rainforest
During a Greenpeace field trip to Cameroon this month, we witnessed widespread local opposition to Herakles Farms’ highly controversial yet potentially lucrative palm oil plantation.
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.
What YOU can do
Cameroon seems far from us. But we need to make that issue known across the world. Environmental crimes must be unveiled.
The Herakles Farms project in Cameroon is in the wrong place, threatens people’s livelihoods and will cause environmental destruction.
It must be stopped and you can play your part:
1. Send a message voicing your opposition.
2. Sign up for Greenpeace Africa’s Facebook page and make your voice heard..
International attention needs to be mobilized to support local opposition and prevent future resource grabs.
Many NGOs and civil society groups within Cameroon and internationally have been campaigning vigorously to stop the Herakles Farms project from the moment it was announced. Greenpeace is proud to work with them.
CED, (Centre pour l’Environnment et Development) is a Cameroon-based NGO who campaign on environmental issues including climate change and deforestation. They have been vociferously opposed to the Herakles Farms project and the devastation it will cause.
Read here their top 13 reasons why it must be stopped.
ACDIC (Cameroonian Citizens Association for the Defence of Collective Interests): is a Cameroon-based NGO with representatives throughout Central Africa who campaign on a number of issues including
SEFE, (Struggle to Economize Future Environment) are a locally based organisation working out of Mundemba near where the Herakles concession area is located. Nasako Besingi and his colleagues have staunchly opposed Herakles plans often at the expense of their own safety and have been harrassed continuously.
Read here how a challenging year ended on a bright note personally for Nasako
Relufa, (REseau de LUtte contre la Faim) is a non-partisan national network of Cameroonian ecumenical and secular non-profit organizations and mainstream churches. The member organizations come from all regions in Cameroon and have joined forces to develop common strategies against systemic problems of hunger, poverty, and socio-, economic- and environmental injustice
Oakland Institute is an independent policy think tank, bringing fresh ideas and bold action to the most pressing social, economic, and environmental issues of our time.
Read the Oakland Institute’s report on what it labels the Herakles debacle.
SAVE Wildlife Conservation Fund is an international non-profit, non-governmental organization founded in Germany in 2010. SAVE supports wildlife protection projects in Germany and Africa and collaborate with primarily small, local organizations that demonstrate the ability to have a large and lasting positive impact on wildlife and habitat conservation.