Monday, June 8, 2015

Herakles Farms Abandons Cameroon Concessions

Mundemba, Cameroon—Sithe Global Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC) a Cameroonian subsidiary of the American agro-industrial compnay, Herakles Farms has abandoned all operations in the Mundemba and Toko Subdivisions respectively and in Ndian Division of the Southwest region.

According to a report by Struggle to Economize Future Environment (SEFE), published by Forest People Program (FPP), the decision was announced to the few remaining workers of Fabe and Lipenja I, Batanga, nurseries on May 29, 2015.

“Workers confirmed that the announcement was made by a man who presented himself as the new CEO of the company. The workers said the reason given for suspending operations was to enable Herakles to intensify planting of palms in the Nguti area before returning to Mundemba and Toko concessions in 2017/2018”, the report reads.

In 2009 Herakles Farms/ SGSOC received a concession of 73,000 hectares of rainforest in the Southwest region to be replaced by oil plam plantations despite locals, national and international NGOs’ outcries against the environmental threat of the palm plantations.

The US agro-industrial claimed to invest 300 billion francs CFA and improve the life of indigenuous people of the project area.

The presidential decree leasing the 73,000 ha concession to the American firm according to the FPP report demanded the company fulfills certain conditions which were not met, notably in the development of social facilities, conducting an environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) in the new concession, and payment of land rents to the tune of 200,000,000 FCFA.

“Treasury and local council officials have confirmed to SEFE that Herakles is yet to pay land rents demanded in the Presidential decrees of November 2013, yet are still operating in the area, in clear violation of the presidential order” the report reads.

Workers Laid Off
The SEFE report reveals that following the abandonment, workers were awarded certificates of appreciation and asked to go to the Divisional Office of Labour in Mundemba and collect money without indicating the amounts.

“Workers were left unclear if these represented wages for the month of May or compensation for the entire period they have worked in the company”

Prior to the withdrawal from the Mundemba and Toko concessions, the company laid off its managers and personnel at its Limbe office. SEFE sources say the company has shut down its Limbe office for good.

It’s not the first time Herakles Farms is laying off its workers. Some of the workers according to the report said they are disheartened because they were recently recalled to work and were laid off again a few days later.

The Mundemba and Toko concession is located astride the Iconic Korup National Park and Rumpi Hills Forest Reserve. The latter being a complex watershed formation with all the freshwater from it draining into the Korup Park.

SEFE officials say establishing a huge palm oil plantation in this area would have brought disastrous pollution resulting from pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides and sewage disposal; all affecting the health of animals in the Korup Park that depend on the water.

By Ndi Eugene Ndi

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