SGSOC'S Social Investments

A Cemetery of Broken Promises

Publication - December 15, 2016
In 2009, Sithe Global Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC) signed an agreement to develop an oil palm plantation in Cameroon’s Southwest region. At the time, the project was known as Herakles Farms – the name of the US investor which withdrew in 2015.

SGSOC was granted a three years temporary grant by Presidential Decree on 25 November 2013. In Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) and common commitments, the company promised to implement a range of social investments in the villages whose customary lands are included in the concession. The company would, amongst other things, provide long term sustainable employment, build schools and hospitals, provide access to water and electricity, pay taxes to the government and ‘‘stipends’’ to local communities. Lack of transparency by the company and government bodies seriously limits the possibility to independently assess the performance of the company.

Despite these limitations, in September 2016, Greenpeace Africa led a field investigation in the concession area to find out whether local communities believe if SGSOC honored its promises. What we found was a cemetery of broken promises.

SGSOC claims it obtained Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) from the communities. It is likely that various other communities are in the same situation. However, members of 12 local communities told Greenpeace Africa that no formal agreement has ever been reached.

Several sources indicate that SGSOC did not respect its land rent payment obligations. Neither did it pay the monthly amounts promised to villages whose land it was granted. SGSOC promised long term sustainable employment for local people. In 2012 the company wrote it would require approximately 8,000 employees once fully operational, but by October 2016 it employed only a couple of hundred people. In the majority of villages community members reported employment by the company was limited or inexistent.

Moreover, dozens of them were terminated before their term, without notice or compensation. SGSOC did not construct schools or hospitals, nor did it sustainably improve roads or provide access to water or electricity.

In this report, Greenpeace Africa exposes the stark contrast between SGSOC’s promises, and the reality on the ground. Discontent is growing amongst villages in the concession area: last October, seven chiefs wrote to the President of Cameroon to announce the withdrawal of their support for and consent to the project. Moreover, 244 farmers recently filed a complaint against the company for trespass to land.

Download the report here.