The increased international demand for commodities and natural resources has led to large scale industrial logging, which is devastating the rainforest and the people and animals that live there.
Greenpeace opened an office in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2008, to step up our work for the protection of the Congo's intact forests, as well as of the rights and livelihood of the indigenous and local peoples depending on them.
Since then, we have been working on the ground to document and expose the plundering of the Congo basin by international logging firms, and advocating for the stricter regulation of forest concessions and for maintaining the existing moratorium on logging activities.
Our vision is for zero deforestation in the Congo Basin by 2015. We believe that, by following an environmentally sound and socially just development model, the DRC can protect its forests, respect the rights of its forest communities and achieve economic development - while helping to protect the global climate.
Palm oil's new frontier
In recent years investors from around the world have been focusing heavily on Africa in an effort to exploit the continent's rich natural resources, including agriculture, minerals and oil, at the expense of local communities and the environment.
This trend of buying or leasing large areas of land in Africa to extract resources for export has been termed "land-grabbing", due to the speed and scale at which it is taking place and due to the opaque nature of some of the land deals that have been negotiated.
The UN has warned that these deals could severely undermine food security, hamper long-term economic development and lead to the loss of important ecosystems.
The Congo Basin is the target of several international palm oil developers, who are looking to expand their operations in Africa. Concession contracts are currently being negotiated for a million hectares of land in Cameroon alone. Most of this land is located within the rainforest region, meaning that palm oil plantations would be a major cause of wide-scale deforestation if allowed to go ahead.
A recent research paper by Greenpeace details the large number of concessions being granted and the dangers to the climate and communities if this large-scale palm oil expansion continues unchecked.
The wrong project in the wrong place?
The deceitful efforts by American-owned Herakles Farms in the southwest of Cameroon to develop a huge oil palm plantation in an area eight times the size of Manhattan are a stark example of the threats that large-scale industrial plantation projects present to people’s rights and livelihoods, biodiversity and the global climate.
Linked to New York private equity giant Blackstone Group, Herakles took over the project from Sithe Global Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC) who signed a convention with the country’s government in 2009 to develop about 70,000 hectares.
The very legality of that convention has been questioned and despite claims by the company that the majority of the concession is secondary and degraded forest, research shows it will affect forests that have been identified as vital for endangered wildlife and serve as corridors to five crucial protected areas.
Also, despite further claims from Herakles Farms that the project will boost the economy and create jobs, the company's plans have been met with widespread opposition and attracted fierce criticism from local NGOs and residents alike.
The Herakles Farms oil palm plantation is the wrong project, in the wrong place. Greenpeace is among the many voices calling for this development to be stopped before it is too late for the people and the ecosystems of Cameroon.