Controversial Palm Oil Project Approved in Cameroon Rainforest

November 26, 2013
Source
MongaBay

Oil palm nursery in a Herakles Farm’s concession area. Last year Herakles Farms said it had permission to set up three nurseries covering 100 hectares even before producing a Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA). Photo: © Greenpeace/Alex Yallop.
Oil palm nursery in a Herakles Farm’s concession area. Last year Herakles Farms said it had permission to set up three nurseries covering 100 hectares even before producing a Social and Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA). Photo: © Greenpeace/Alex Yallop. 

A controversial palm oil project set in the West African rainforest in Cameroon has won a three-year provisional lease to convert 20,000 hectares of land for plantations. The project, which is run by U.S.-based Herakles Farms, has been heavily opposed by environmental groups who say it will destroy blocks of wildlife-rich forest. 

Under the provisional lease granted by the Cameroonian government, Herakles will be allowed to develop less than a third of the 73,000 ha it originally hoped to turn into oil palm plantations. The project had been halted by Cameroon's Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife last May due to environmental concerns. 

Greenpeace, which together with the the Oakland Institute has led a campaign against the project, criticized the decision. 

“A downsized project does not resolve the problems related to the palm oil project by Herakles Farms,” said Irène Wabiwa, forest campaigner with Greenpeace Africa, in a statement. “It simply remains the wrong project in the wrong place, as the impact on communities’ livelihoods and the forests remain unacceptable.” 

Greenpeace says the new lease shows that Herakles had moved ahead with the project despite having necessary permits 

“The opaque and illegal manner in which the project has been carried out demonstrates the threats to Africa's forests if operations like this are allowed to proceed unchecked.” said Wabiwa. 

Environmentalists fear that projects like Herakles' plantation are just the first wave of large-scale industrial plantation development in the Congo, the world's second largest rainforest. Already plans are moving forward for new oil palm development in DRC, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and Cameroon. 

Oil palm expansion is a major driver of deforestation in Southeast Asia. Palm oil is widely used as a cooking oil and in processed snack foods. 

© Jean-Pierre Kepseu/Greenpeace.
Villagers from Talangaye, an area neighboring the concession. © Jean-Pierre Kepseu/Greenpeace.