20.12.2012 | permalink
Campaigners will continue their protest against a large palm oil plantation which is threatening a rainforest in southwest Cameroon, as well as the livelihoods of thousands of people living in the area. This is the announcement made by Nasako Besingi, director of the local NGO ‘Struggle to Economize the Future’, in an interview published today by Inter Press Service. In 2009, SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC) - a subsidary of the US-based agricultural company Herakles Farms - signed a 99-year lease contract with the Cameroonian Government over 73,000 hectares of land in the Korup National Park; an area rich in biodiversity. Without presidential approval and prior to an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment as required by law, SGSOC pressed ahead with the project, clearing forests and developing oil palm nurseries. “The plantation will economically displace approximately 25,000 people and put at risk many others who depend on that land for small-scale food production, hunting, and non-timber forest products”, Nasako Besingi warned. Local farmers cultivate millet, cocoa and cassava in the region. SGSOC promised the creation of jobs but campaigners fear that the social and environmental consequences will outweigh potential benefits. Brendan Schwartz, Programme Coordinator of Réseau de Lutte contre la Faim, a network of Cameroonian NGOs, criticised the government’s role: “While peasant farmers have numerous obstacles to titling their land and securing access to other natural resources on which they depend, multinational companies can fly into Yaoundé and sign deals to secure huge tracts of land with little regard for the communities in these areas.” An investigation published by the Oakland Institute and Greenpeace in September has denounced the human rights violations commited by SGSOC and warned against the irreversible negative impacts on the people living in the area and on the environment.