Toronto, Ontario -- (ReleaseWire) -- 07/04/2012 --An international coalition of non profit groups and online activists Forest Activists United issued a rebuttal to a press release from Herakles Farms today. The original press release issued by Herakles Farms , a US company that owns SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon ( SGSOC ) spoke in glowing terms of its proposed palm oil plantation in Cameroon.
The NGOs including the Rainforests Resource Development Centre( RRDC ), Green Concern for Development( Greencode ) in Nigeria, the Struggle to Economize Future Environment ( SEFE )were led by Save Wildlife Conservation Fund( German based )
In 2009, SGSOC signed a 99-year contract with Cameroon's government for approximately 70,000 hectares. The company planned to develop a large industrial palm oil plantation and refinery on the concession, and produce palm oil and other products that is supposed to create jobs for local workers, as well as generate revenues for Cameroon's government.
The issue according to a statement from SEFE Director, Nasako Besingi was that the contract did not specify that the plantations would be established in one of the last remaining rainforests in Cameroon. Herakles in its press release calls it a “region that had been logged and farmed repeatedly.” This statement suggests a degraded forest or barren landscape that cannot be farmed by small scale farmers but according to SEFE “ The land within these protected areas are significant nationally and internationally in terms of biodiversity, ecology, hydrology and climate change. The establishment of this plantation will not only cause problems to communities that live in the proposed concession areas but also those that live on coastal fringes in other areas of Cameroon, including those in Cross river State in Nigeria.” Satellite imagery from Save Wildlife supports SEFE’s claim that huge portions of the concession lands are as heavily forested as those in Korup National Park.
While Herakles Farms CEO Bruce Wrobel speaks in terms like "We are focused on balancing our commitments to the Government regarding job creation and economic development with the specific and important interests of the local communities, as well as NGOs and other stakeholders.” Local communities that have been affected by this plantation have a much different story to tell. A good portion of the local communities claim to have received no consultations nor did they give their consent to have their lands included in the palm oil plantation. According to SEFE, even those villages that did agree to the plantation are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the plantation as the promises of good jobs have not materialised. Their greatest fear now is that their decision to continue their traditional livelihoods will not be an option if their lands are swallowed up by Herakles.
In a direct contradiction of its own environmental policies to not plant on High Value Conservation forests, Herakles choice of location is considered by scientists worldwide to be a biodiversity hotspot. The buffer zones between Korup national park and the Rumpi Hills Forest Reserve in Toko and Mundemba subdivisions in Ndain Division and the protected areas of Bakossi National Park and Bayang-mbo Wildlife Sanctuary in Nguti subdivision of Kupe-Muanenguba Division are home to some of the most critically endangered primates in the world including the Preuss’s Red Colobus monkey and the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee. This would clearly define the area as a High Value Conservation Forest ( HVCF ) as defined by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm oil, of which Herakles Farms is listed as a member. RSPO policies are quite simply that its members do not create plantations in these areas. Formal complaints to the RSPO against Herakles have been filed by 10 individual groups including Save Wildlife with a resolution deadline set for July 8 2012 to the complaints.
The pressure from a large scale plantation is expected to affect the wildlife and the environment in an area that is made up of a series of national parks shared by both Nigerian and Cameroon. Scientists familiar with this region have also issued an urgent call for support to protect this biodiversity hotspot and issued a public statement asking the RSPO to remove Herakles Farms and its Cameroonian subsidiary from its membership.
Forest Activists United, an online group made up of forest activists with a global membership is hoping that their involvement will being a greater awareness to the massive threats facing forests in Cameroon. The country has so far signed agreements with various palm oil producers to allow for an additional 800,000 hectares of industrial palm plantations