Campaigners opposed to a large palm oil plantation in a rainforest covering part of the Korup National Park in southwestern Cameroon say up to 45,000 people risk losing their livelihoods if the project proceeds.“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. Thus, the net impact on employment will actually be negative. This is not a fair deal,” Nasako Besingi, one of the campaigners against the plantation, told IRIN.
The project in Mundemba Region is overseen by SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC), a subsidiary of Herakles Farms, a US-based agricultural company.
In 2009 SGSOC signed an agreement with the Cameroonian government to develop an industrial palm oil plantation and refinery. A year later forest clearing began on part of the 73,086-hectare site acquired on a 99-year land-lease deal.
Campaigners argue that a large industrial plantation could destabilize the area’s rich ecosystem and that the environmental and socioeconomic gains from preserving the rainforest outweigh the promised benefits from the plantation.
Local smallholders grow millet, cocoa, cassava, oil palm, beans, rice and fruit, which they supplement with fishing and hunting. They also collect wild foods, medicinal plants and wood for fuel in the area, which is inhabited by between 14,000 (according to SGSOC) and 45,000 people (according to campaigners).
“If you look at the working conditions in other agro-industrial plantations, they are truly deplorable. Most employees make US$34-70 per month, which is not a living wage in today’s economy,” Besingi added.
“Our people used to live in harmony with animals in this forest but recent forest exploitation, aggravated by SGSOCs bulldozing of forest areas”, has upset the sensitive human-animal eco-balance, Besingi said, leading to a number of recent cases of elephants attacking farmers.
Read more of the story here at the IRIN news service:
CAMEROON: Campaigners oppose industrial palm oil plantation