Pushing for transparency in Congo Basin palm oil

June 30, 2014

The palm fruit. This are the seeds ready for the press. The fruit itself is turned into Palm oil, while the nut is used for Palmiste oil (Huile de palmiste in french). This is the local variety grown by smallholders. Herakles Farm plan to grow improved varieties that are sold to them by IRAD, a camerooneese institute who also issued the controversial ecological assessment stating that plantation area is only secondary degradated forest.

© Jan-Joseph Stok / Greenpeace

The global palm oil industry is at a critical juncture. In 2012 we published a report that outlined howAfrica is a new frontier for industrial palm oil production. This may bring much needed development to the continent, but it could also just as easily come at a great social and environmental cost. The expansion of palm oil production is one of the fastest growing drivers of deforestation in the tropics, emitting tons of greenhouse gases as a result. It too often leads to conflict with local communities over rights and access to land and forest resources, upon which they are highly dependent.

Much of the public work from Greenpeace on this campaign has been dedicated to stopping the illegal and irresponsibleHerakles Farmsproject in the Southwest of Cameroon.

[caption id="attachment_25392" align="alignleft" width="300"]Aerial image of the oil palm nursery managed by Herakles Farms. Aerial image of the oil palm nursery managed by Herakles Farms.[/caption]

The "wrong project in the wrong place" is planned in an area of High Conservation Value (HCV) and will destroy the habitat ofendangered wildlife including the chimpanzee. The company has not followed best practices by failing to obtain thefree prior and informed consent of local communitiesand we have shown how Herakles Farms has resorted to"intimidation and corruption"to acquire land and silence any opposition. Additionally just last month we revealed how Herakles Farms colluded with the Government of Cameroon toillegally sell timberin order to save their financially struggling company.

The Herakles Farms project is a toxic one, so we have spent much of our time trying our utmost to stop it. However it is equally important to ensure that other investors in the region do not in any way replicate these mistakes or such an environmentally and socially damaging project.

Accordingly we have been pressuring all corporations and investors to be fully transparent about both their current and potential investments, to ensure there is accountability from the very beginning.

It's a simple equation; avoiding damage being done is far better than having to repair damage after it has been done. A palm oil project developed with full transparency and with the consent of all stakeholders involved has a better chance of becoming sustainable and socially responsible than projects negotiated in secret in murky back rooms.

Chimpanzee hanging in a tree, Mefou, National Park, Cameroon.

This is why recently Greenpeace contacted a number of leading industrial palm oil companies. Our monitoring work in the Congo Basin region picked up evidence that these companies are either already developing a palm oil plantation, expanding an existing plantation or prospecting for a site for a future plantation in the area.

We asked them for a variety of information about their plans such as if the plantation expansion will impact the forest and what environmental safeguards they intend to put in place.

Such information should be public and available to a range of stakeholders, not just Greenpeace. So we have published the letters sent to these companies below. We also vow to publish any response we get from these companies. Transparency is the bedrock to responsible businesses and something that any company interested in truly responsibly investing in Africa would practice.

Some companies such as Sime Darby we are still to write to and some we are still waiting on a response.

Letters sent: Cameroon Development Corporation Pamol BioPalm SudCam Hevea SocaPalm Louis Dreyfus Carsons Cumberbatch Azur Smart Holdings Cargill

Responses received thus far: Carsons Cumberbatch Louis Dreyfus BioPalm page 1,page 2

Greenpeace is not against palm oil, but we stand for palm oil that is produced in a responsible way without leading to deforestation, threatening endangered wildlife, and without fuelling land use conflicts or undermining people's rights and livelihoods.

You can also help achieve this and begin now bysigning up to help stop Herakles Farms project in Cameroon.

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