• Herakles Farms: "Investing in Africa"

    Blogpost by Brendan Schwartz - February 4, 2014 at 17:00 Add comment

    Herakles Farms sign in Cameroon

    Herakles Farms is a gem of a company claiming to "invest" in "sustainable" agriculture in Africa, in particular in a forested corner of the South West region of Cameroon. It's a crowded market, but what makes them so different? What sets them apart from the rest of the field?

    Well, they have that wow factor that Greenpeace and other environmental organisations just love: a stubborn insistence on publicly communicating and branding themselves as truly sustainable investors while flouting the most basic principles of sustainability and community development.

    The contrast between their bombastic public declarations and the often unpleasant reality is stark. Herakles would have us all believe they are addressing a "dire humanitarian need" by developing a palm oil project in Cameroon, while, in reality, the company is destroying local communities' most valuable assets; the land and forests.

    Oil palm nursery in a Herakles Farm's concession area. Herakles is pushing ahead with its plans for a huge palm oil plantation with complete disregard for Cameroonian law and the opposition of local people, who fear they will lose their farms and their livelihoods to the US-based corporation.

    But to their credit, Herakles is bold if nothing else. They might be the only company in the world brave enough to announce in the same press release the fact that their operations had been suspended by Cameroon's Ministry of Forestry AND that the company "always has and will comply fully and transparently with government regulations in force". All the while, they continued logging illegally during the Ministry of Forestry's suspension. Just another week at the office.

    For Herakles, there are no contradictions or ironic statements, because they are so GREEN. Herakles is so Green that it knows exactly which scientists will call the plantation area a "biodiversity cold spot", despite multiple evidence to the contrary and the presence of beautiful forests and rare and endangered species like Chimpanzees.

    Herakles is so Green, it knows how to employ "intimidation and corruption" when they fail to convince local communities of the value of their project. Herakles is so Green, that it partnered with an NGO called All for Africa to deceive the public into believing that forest destruction would actually help fight climate change.

    Villagers Visit Oil Palm Plantation in Cameroon. Residents of Babensi 2 Village visit the area and sit on a pile of timber logged for the creation of an oil palm plantation belonging to Herakles Farms. Their village borders Talangaye and is located at the heart of an area Herakles Farms are trying to convert into oil palm plantation, 73,000 hectares in size. Despite their opposition to project, Adolf and other villagers have discovered that Herakles Farms have ignored their wishes and bulldozed tracts of forests belonging to the village.

    Herakles is so Green that it told the world it would give the Cameroonian government the valuable timber it must clear to develop its palm oil plantation while telling its own investors, behind closed doors, the company could make $60-$90 million by selling it. After all, money is Green and that's what counts.


    But there is good news folks, you have the power to turn this project around. Herakles is unfathomably in so much trouble it needs cash fast and is soliciting start-up money from private investors just like you! Even the Wall Street Journal recommends you get in on the Herakles Farms project in Cameroon.

    Star investor Justin Patterson is Greening the heck out of Herakles Farms. The only problem is that Justin thinks that Green stands for cash and not sustainability. 

The communities and forests of Cameroon and the communities and forests of Africa deserve better and more responsible investment in their environment than projects which destroy valuable habitats and remove the livelihoods of residents.

    Does this seem like a good investment in Africa's farms?

    If your answer is NO, please sign our petition to let Herakles Farms and their investors know what Green really means.

    Brendan Schwartz is a forests camapigner at Greenpeace Africa.