Thursday, October 31, 2013

[biofuelwatch] Fw: Battle to Stop Herakles Illegal Grap Of Land in Cameroon plus links







REASONS WHY SGSOC/ HERAKLES'S PROJECT IN CAMEROON MUST BE STOPPED IMMEDIATELY
 
1. The Establishment Convention between the company and the Government violates international human rights conventions and the Cameroonian penal code. The contract explicitly situates itself above national law by specifying that its terms apply in case of conflict between its provisions and national law. (The Establishment Convention is available at http://cameroonveritas.wordpress.com/)
 
2. The Establishment Convention accords the company far more rights than are necessary for oil palm cultivation: the right to water (for free) and other natural resources, and carbon rights.
 
 3. The Environmental and Social Impact Assessment of the project was modified by the company. The two versions of this Environmental and Social Impact Assessment are available to date at http://cameroonveritas.wordpress.com/.
 
4. The High Conservation Forest and fauna and flora assessments produced by the company are of mediocre quality, and were rejected by international bodies. The region is however known to be a biodiversity hotspot.
 
5. "The project will take nearly all of the land communities need, without free and informed prior consent and adequate compensation".
 
6. The company is guilty of illegal logging, having felled trees in the zone it's trying to incorporate into its concession. Forestry Ministry inspectors have produced a report on these illegal activities.
 
7. The revenue that the State will gain from this project is insignificant: a land rent between USD 0.5 and 1.00 (250 FCFA and 500 FCFA) per hectare per year for 99 years, a particularly favourable fiscal regime that will considerably reduce the taxes paid by the company, and the granting of carbon rights. A ton of carbon is worth at least USD 5.00 (2,500 FCFA), and a forest such as the one Herakles has its eye on can stock up to 250 tons of carbon per hectare; this income may represent around 45 billion FCFA per year for all 73,000ha. This figure may vary depending on the carbon market. At the time of contract signature, the value of the carbon was about 145 billion FCFA. The price is expected to go up in the future.
 
8. The company still doesn't have a land lease. Its Establishment Convention is a framework document but doesn't grant land rights over a specific zone. The company's presence in the site where it's found is thus illegal.
 
9. The company doesn't respect the Cameroonian Justice System. It violated a decision of a Mundemba court ordering it to suspend all development activity of its plantation, following a complaint filed by local people. The company ignored this decision whose existence moreover it has denied in writing.
 
10. "Most Community consultation has been inappropriate, SGSOC failing to have always presented all the details and implications of its project"
 
. Also, the demarcation of what it presents as its concession was carried out in numerous cases in the absence of the local people whose lands are going to be affected.
 
11. SGSOC/HERAKLES has lied to its investors, the Government of Cameroon and communities by claiming on numerous occasions that its operations would respect the highest environmental and social standards. Its recent withdrawal from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) demonstrates its incapacity to satisfy the demands of this institution's standards. The company has recently associated itself with a new German investor, Acazis, whose history in Ethiopia is a worrisome.
 
12. The vast majority of local community members oppose the project, and have expressed this in many ways.
 
13. Why does the company want absolutely to impose its agro-industrial project in a zone where support to family agriculture would help fight poverty more effectively and strengthen national food security?


Massive logging deforestation disguised as a sustainable development project  is taking place, the dubious ticks and activities employed by SGSOC and its CEO Bruce Wrobel gives the impression that the signed June 2013  MOU contracts are part of a sustainable approach and profitable for the Nguti sub-region. Recently obtained documents in May 2013 regarding the project is terrifying and frightening for the future of the local communities and the forest. These documents contain evidence that Herakles is fooling investors, local communities, government and the people of Cameroon on the status of the project and its activities in the country.
 
While ministries still have not agreed on whether to authorize the 12,000 ha plantation in Nguti sub-region of Cameroon, voices say shady Herakles Farms are using the their normal ticks to have a rush agreement with government. When Herakles Farms have failed to keep their promises the local population will have to change their lives again, because "the jobs" in the plantation will be no more, but the forest and farms that used to guarantee their lives before will also be destroyed, and they will have nothing - No farming lands or villages.

Subject: [manyu_edwc] Battle to Stop Herakles Illegal Grap Of Land plus links

 

We demand the following:
 
1. The SGSOC project must be stopped immediately. SGSOC must stop forest clearing, planting seedlings, and attempting to acquire land.
 
2. The current Establishment Convention between the company and the Government should be cancelled.
 
3. The Government authorities, especially the anti-corruption administration, should investigate allegations of corruption and, if found to be true, prosecute them to the full extent of the law.
 
4. If the company still wishes to invest in Cameroon, the entire project must be restarted at zero. This includes negotiating a new convention that fully complies with the Constitution and Laws of Cameroon as well as international conventions the country has ratified. A new project must integrate international best practices established of the palm oil industry.
 
5. The Government of Cameroon should put in place a moratorium on the granting of all land concessions until Cameroon's national land-use plan and national palm oil strategies are complete.
 
Note - The convention is subject to the Cameroonian Constitution, but only the January 1996 version which was in force when the agreement was signed in September of 2009. If for any reason Cameroon changes its Constitution and SGSOC judges the amendments to be less favourable to its activities, the company could invoke this article to inhibit the application of the new constitutional clauses to its operations. This is an example of a stabilization clause on the Cameroonian Constitution which is rarely found in conventions between states and multinational companies and is totally illegal.


 


Herakles' devils seem not to be very bright. Its fate was doomed the moment it set foot on Cameroon soil. For the past four years local and international environmental conservationists and activists, environmental NGOs, scientists, lawyers, magistrates, human rights activists, patriots and a few petty-witted money-hungry administrators have cut and nailed Herakles' coffin.

By Azore Opio

Herakles Farms' invasion of the tropical rainforests in the South West Region of Cameroon threatened to thwart the region's most committed stewards, the indigenes, who have endured fear and uncertainty as their very livelihoods are menaced by those who are likely to profit from the deprivation of their land and its resources.

Herakles entered Cameroon sometime in 2009 or thereabouts guided by late Dr. Isiodre Timti and guised as Sithe Global Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC). It hastily went on to sign a 99-year contract with Cameroon's government for around 70,000 hectares (over 170,000 acres) in the Ndian and Kupe-Muanenguba regions. For the most part, Herakles was on unfriendly terms with the natives of Mundemba and Nguti from the start. The firm had cut corners with the national laws and international norms and along with these mishaps, sidelined the rightful owners of the land it very much wanted to exploit as can be affirmed by the following e-mail correspondence from one John DeMarco:

Hello GIZ/KWF friends,
"Allow me to explain a little how I got involved with the issue [Herakles]. I have to confess that I was actually the one who brought Sithe/Herakles to Cameroon a few years ago. I met the CEO, Bruce Wrobel at a different company meeting in Toronto, and he told me of his plans to develop oil palm in Africa. He put me in touch with his VP Varmine Farman. At the time, I naively believed them when they said they wanted their project to be a model of environmental and social responsibility, so I offered to help. I suggested that Cameroon was worth looking at, as I thought there could be areas of degraded forest where oil palm plantations could be an appropriate form of development, especially if planned with the local communities. I introduced them to an old friend, Dr. Timti as a specialist in oil palm. I also offered to help in planning the environmental and community aspects. I didn't hear much news until late in 2010, when they called me back to ask for help in land demarcation around villages within the concession. Once I got on the ground, in the Mundemba side of the concession, I realised that:

1)   There was definitely loss of primary, never logged forests in the area intended to plant palms, and
2) They had not followed the necessary steps in terms of genuine baseline studies, planning and consultation before starting to clear land.

So I ended up leaving them with some recommendations on how to go about the land use planning, impact assessment, etc.

When I was sent the ESIA document last week, it became more clear than ever that the company has no intention of following the various standards (RSPO, IFC, etc) that they claim to follow. I think they are trying to take advantage of the naivety and desperate poverty of Cameroonians to steal a huge area of land which is somebody's ancestral land, promising jobs as well as a number of other poorly defined benefits. Their strategy seems to be to win control of an area worth hundreds of millions of dollars, while paying almost nothing, and not even having a proper plan for the project. If they get the necessary approvals, they would even be in a position to sell the project for a huge profit to other investors, without sticking around to make the investment or keep their promises.
I happen to work as a consultant to mining companies and others who are trying to comply with IFC guidelines, and I can tell you this ESIA is a joke and an insult to anybody who takes those guidelines seriously.
So being at least partly responsible for bringing this company to Cameroon, I now feel a duty to try to limit the damage. I am passing on this information to help and encourage all those who are trying to ensure that Cameroon and the global environment do not end up being the big losers, while a small group of people make a huge profit through dishonest process..."

Injunctions

The war over 70,000 hectares of pristine forest had begun. And Herakles was about to make a mistake that would put it at peril – flouting court injunctions slammed on it by the Mundemba High Court on August 31, 2011, with a penalty of FCFA 500.000 per day if the restraining order was violated.

Herakles went ahead and violated the moratorium and a second one placed on its activities on February 27, 2012 temporarily prohibiting the company from moving forward "until the mandatory impact assessment is carried out with a view to evaluate the impact of their acts on the human and environment of these areas."
Earlier on August 12, 2011 Barrister Adolf Malle Nganya, counsel for Struggle to Economise Environment (SEFE), had prayed the court to restrain SGSOC, their servants and agents from further carrying out any activities in furtherance of their establishment of an oil palm plantation in Mundemba and Toko Subdivisions of Ndian Division.

Herakles gave no heed. Instead, Nasako Besingi, SEFE Director, and three of his collaborators, were arrested on November 14, 2012 by the police and detained in Mundemba.

Coercion
In this bold drama of land grabbing, the administrators seemed to have played a leading role though poorly.
On August 4, 2011, in Mundemba, a senior territorial administrator attempted to coerce stakeholders at a meeting into accepting the proceedings of the meeting as a green light for SGSOC.

While community leaders and advocates have been knocking on all possible doors to bring Herakles to order, international institutions and NGOs have been doing their own independent investigations.

Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) in a July 2013 assessment of process to obtain the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) from communities in Mundemba and Nguti Subdivisions summarises thus:

"Communities' decisions about the Herakles/SGSOC project have not been free from coercion; communities have not been informed in advance of major decisions; communities have not given their consent for development on their lands.
Together the above findings support the view that communities' right to give or withhold their FPIC for the Herakles/SGSOC palm oil development project that overlaps their lands has not been respected. Given the facts that (i) the company is targeting over 70,000 hectares of communities' customary lands, especially forests, for conversion from communally managed forests to private, monoculture palm production, and (ii) local peoples rely upon those lands and forests to secure their current and future livelihood needs, the report predicts a potential human rights and livelihood disaster if these plans continue."

The FPP report further states that communities had felt compelled to sign up to Herakles/SGSOC plans, even when there was widespread local disagreement and dissent. In addition, local consultations by Herakles/SGSOC focused mainly on sharing information with some local traditional leaders through a limited number of short meetings. As such, communities have not been informed in advance of decisions.

Phony Firm?
E-mail correspondences that sprung a leak paint a bleak picture of Herakles/SGSOC as a deceitful, if not phony enterprise out to reap enormously by sowing little. 

An e-mails run thus with names of correspondents withheld. 

On August 31, 2012 a correspondent wrote;

"Presently, the workers in the nursery are paid without tax and social insurance contributions. This is a violation of the Cameroon law. However, the company has decided to start paying the workers through the bank but the workers have not been properly informed about how their tax and social insurance contribution will be deducted from their wages. The workers are paid US$ 5 (2,500) frs a day and they have not been informed if the amount will increase daily to enable them get the same amount monthly as when they were not paying taxes and social insurance contributions. If not properly handled, an NGO if informed will pick this up against the company and it will go on the newspapers."

Another e-mail said the pace of clearing land was slow and the cost astronomical roughly US$ 40,000 per hectare – only 5 hectares were cleared in 44 days with those involved not knowing what to do, "if this continues it will lead to disaster... I was asked to compile a monthly report for investors, but only to highlight the positive aspects..."

The tones in the e-mails expressed a great deal of doubt about the entire Herakles project.

"I feel sorry for Herakles – the way things are at the moment in their Limbe office there is absolutely NO way they will reach anywhere near their planting targets for this year let alone next year."

The correspondent said if the implementation of the project was left in the hands of certain people, it would fail because they had no clue about Sustainable Oil Palm Plantation Development.

"If they cannot get the nursery right, then what more?... I have this strange feeling that this is all a 'fund raising tactic' – so that they can tell potential investors that they have 'X Million'  seedlings in four large nurseries, and that they can started planting/planted 'Y' hectares. I sincerely hope that it is not the case. Because if it is indeed the case, shit will hit the fan when the truth comes out and you can be rest assured that they will not be able to raise any capital abroad – the project will collapse – and the Government will step in with a sledgehammer."

Cash Cow

The e-mails said Herakles was using the seedlings/nursery to show the investors they have enough planting material – "Investors will be fools to buy into this concept – but this happens with greedy speculators who are ignorant of the modalities of industrial oil palm plantation development. No doubt 'All for Africa' investors who are purchasing the trees (palms) are being taken for a ride...extraction of timber is where the money is coming from – it is Herakles Farms' cash cow; the arrangement they have with the current government is unbelievable."

Another one says US-based advisors to some West African countries were annoyed at the fact that foreign investors are only interested in monocrop oil palm plantation colonial style in West Africa (Cameroon included) and not food production to the detriment of the local population.

"In fact, they have become extremely critical of Herakles, to the point that they are now advising the Government of Cameroon to include an enforceable clause in the land lease agreement with foreign investors (Herakles included), to ensure that inter-cropping is an essential component of sustainable oil palm plantation development. As you know the Herakles land lease agreement is yet to be formalised. The President is under tremendous pressure not to sign the lease..."

Meanwhile, Greenpeace International and the Oakland Institute in the US have lashed out at the Cameroonian government's decision to lift their suspension of Herakles Farms' forest clearing activities. 

Despite widespread opposition from communities concerned about losing their lands and livelihoods, allegations of corruption and violations of national and international laws, Herakles is still insisting on pushing ahead with its project.
"This project should be cancelled permanently, as it would have devastating social and environmental consequences for the region," said Irène Wabiwa, forest campaigner for Greenpeace Africa.

A report released by the Oakland Institute and Greenpeace International speaks volumes of widespread misconduct by Herakles Farms.

Internal company communications and documents reveal that the company is apparently well aware that it is operating in Cameroon without all required permits and authorisations, and that bribery may have been used in the attempt to gain consent and other approvals for the project.

The US authorities are aware of the allegations of corruption, and Greenpeace and the Oakland Institute believe both the US and Cameroonian governments should thoroughly investigate these accusations.
"In the face of evidence that has been laid bare by the Oakland Institute and Greenpeace International, we wonder why the hands of the Cameroonian Government are still tied, stopping it from doing right by its people and the country," said Anuradha  Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute. 

Greenpeace and the Oakland Institute are calling for a moratorium on all large-scale land concessions in Cameroon until appropriate safeguards are introduced to protect the livelihoods of local communities and the forests on which they depend.
If this project is not stopped, Herakles Farms' palm oil plantation would set a very bad example to investors on how large-scale agribusiness projects can be conducted on the continent.


Herakles Farms says it had been acting properly. "The Company had obtained permission to proceed and always has and will comply fully and transparently with government regulations in force," the company said in a statement. "The Company is deeply distressed to see so many of its committed Cameroonian employees being left without jobs for an uncertain period of time," Herakles Farms added. "The company finds these events especially tragic and will do all it can to achieve a positive outcome." The lies from SGSOC. Read more from - http://betockvoices.page.tl/

The Government of Cameroon has fallen for the corporate trickery and agreed to give Herakles complete legal impunity in their plans. Herakles farms has been made exempt from national law – giving them the power to destroy protected nature reserves, force people from their land, and "search, apprehend, detain, exclude, and evict" anyone trespassing on their leased land – power which they have used to detain protestors and local citizens at wilL. All complaints and reports arising from this illegal project, including violations of forestry regulations, corruption and seizing of local cocoa farms have being ignored for the interest and benefits of the few individuals. Like others before in Cameroon incarceration will be their retirement home in the coming years not the villages/towns. Herakles Farms (SGSOC) grand experience in Cameroon is pushing that envelope, land grabbing and double-dealing for profit!
U.S.-owned palm oil firm Herakles Farms is seeking to sell off existing plantations in Cameroon- http://www.trust.org/item/20130913170151-rh2og/?source=hpbreaking

Cameroonians realise what Herakles Farms really plans for their forests – logging rights  http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/makingwaves/cameroon-communities-realise-what-herakles-fa/blog/46587/

The young, elegant, and quick thinking Chief of Sikam is one of the new driving forces to have Herakles back in the region. "I need SGSOC in Sikam to drive out all the trouble makers from my land" http://irokoheritage.com/2013/10/17/heracles-farms-vs-the-people-of-nguti-reasons-they-dont-want-a-giant-oil-palm-plantation-set-up-in-their-backyard/

As said by few Land grabbers "You can acquire any soul in that region with a beer" - More from - http://betockvoices.page.tl/Pushing-the-envelope-.htm


WITH THANKS
























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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

[biofuelwatch] Communities can monitor forests 'as well as experts'





http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24713215

Communities can monitor forests 'as well as experts'

Member of a local community measuring the diameter of a tree (Image: DEGI/ICRAF) Data by community members was show to be as accurate as data gathered by hi-tech systems

Communities living alongside the world's tropical forests can estimate an area's carbon stocks as effectively as hi-tech systems, a study has shown.

An international team of researchers found communities using sticks and ropes obtained the same results as data gathered by satellites.
They added that the study showed that projects aimed at halting deforestation needed to use these people's skills.
The findings have been published in the journal Ecology and Society.
"For the first time, we have shown that local communities are able to monitor forest biomass up to the highest standards of the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], even in the most species-rich forests on Earth," explained co-author Finn Danielsen, senior ecologist for Denmark-based NGO Nordic Foundation for Development and Ecology.
"We are arguing that the (Redd) policy document is showing that they should be part of the process, but in reality they are not."
Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (Redd) projects are one of the main mechanisms available to policymakers to curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from deforestation and land-use change.
Current estimates suggest that deforestation and forest degradation accounts for about 15% of GHG emissions resulting from human activity.
Under the schemes, such as the UN's Redd programme, developing nations are paid not to fell large areas of tropical forests.
Mist covers a tropical forest (Image: BBC) More than a billion of the world's poorest people are dependent upon trees for their livelihoods
Redd+ projects also include other measures, such as conservation, sustainable forest management and the enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
"If you want to have an impact on the ground, you have to involve the people who live in the area who depend on the resources provided by the forests," Mr Danielsen told BBC News.
"You can do all sorts of remote sensing and national inventories of carbon stocks but if you do not involve local community members, you are going to have a very hard task linking all the factors together to have real implementation on the ground."
With this in mind, the study - co-ordinated by the World Agroforestry Centre - identified 289 plots in nine forest types located in four countries in South-East Asia and compared the carbon stock estimates collected by local communities with the results gathered by professional foresters.
Under-used resource
Mr Danielsen observed: "We found that they obtained the same results, both in terms of accuracy and precision."
He explained that the method used by the local communities was "very easy and very straightforward", using just basic instruments, including sticks and ropes.
"They establish a plot in the forest that contains a typical composite of trees for the forest," he said.
"Then they measure the trees and write down on a piece of paper how big the trees are and how many there are.
"They then enter this data into a spreadsheet and then this spreadsheet can tell us how much carbon is stored in that particular plot.
"If that plot is representative of the area then you can calculate how much carbon is stored in the forest."
The team hoped its findings would show that forest communities were an under-used resource when it came to the monitoring aspects of Redd projects.
"At the international level, we are saying that we have got to find ways for Redd to be having a true impact on the forests around the world," Mr Danielsen commented.
"At a national level, we would like to send the message to government departments that it is possible for local communities to do the job.
"We are not saying that they can do it better or they should do it alone, we are just saying that they can do it just as well as government foresters and foresters from the private sector."
The study's publication coincides with the start of the Redd Exchange 2013 in Oslo, Norway.
Organisers say the two-day gathering of 400 experts in the Norwegian capital city aims to renew the forests and climate change agenda in light of the experience of Redd projects to date.

[Ends]




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Monday, October 28, 2013

[biofuelwatch] Fwd: New paper on land grabs and bioenergy potential assessments










Environmental Research Letters 2013 Volume 8 Number 3
I
Felix Creutzig et al 2013  Integrating place-specific livelihood and equity outcomes into global assessments of bioenergy deployment. Environ. Res. Lett. 8 035047
doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/3/035047

© 2013 IOP Publishing Ltd
Published 17 September 2013

Open access from the link below
Abstract
Integrated assessment models suggest that the large-scale deployment of bioenergy could contribute to ambitious climate change mitigation efforts. However, such a shift would intensify the global competition for land, with possible consequences for 1.5 billion smallholder livelihoods that these models do not consider. Maintaining and enhancing robust livelihoods upon bioenergy deployment is an equally important sustainability goal that warrants greater attention. The social implications of biofuel production are complex, varied and place-specific, difficult to model, operationalize and quantify. However, a rapidly developing body of social science literature is advancing the understanding of these interactions. In this letter we link human geography research on the interaction between biofuel crops and livelihoods in developing countries to integrated assessments on biofuels. We review case-study research focused on first-generation biofuel crops to demonstrate that food, income, land and other assets such as health are key livelihood dimensions that can be impacted by such crops and we highlight how place-specific and global dynamics influence both aggregate and distributional outcomes across these livelihood dimensions. We argue that place-specific production models and land tenure regimes mediate livelihood outcomes, which are also in turn affected by global and regional markets and their resulting equilibrium dynamics. The place-specific perspective suggests that distributional consequences are a crucial complement to aggregate outcomes; this has not been given enough weight in comprehensive assessments to date. By narrowing the gap between place-specific case studies and global models, our discussion offers a route towards integrating livelihood and equity considerations into scenarios of future bioenergy deployment, thus contributing to a key challenge in sustainability sciences.
--  
 
===============================================
"
The growth in CO2 emissions closely follows the growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) corrected for improvements in energy efficiency."

P. Friedlingstein, et al. "Update on CO2 emissions." Nature Geoscience. Published online: 21 November 2010
=====================================

















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[biofuelwatch] Battle to Stop Herakles Illegal Grap Of Land plus links





We demand the following:
 
1. The SGSOC project must be stopped immediately. SGSOC must stop forest clearing, planting seedlings, and attempting to acquire land.
 
2. The current Establishment Convention between the company and the Government should be cancelled.
 
3. The Government authorities, especially the anti-corruption administration, should investigate allegations of corruption and, if found to be true, prosecute them to the full extent of the law.
 
4. If the company still wishes to invest in Cameroon, the entire project must be restarted at zero. This includes negotiating a new convention that fully complies with the Constitution and Laws of Cameroon as well as international conventions the country has ratified. A new project must integrate international best practices established of the palm oil industry.
 
5. The Government of Cameroon should put in place a moratorium on the granting of all land concessions until Cameroon's national land-use plan and national palm oil strategies are complete.
 
Note - The convention is subject to the Cameroonian Constitution, but only the January 1996 version which was in force when the agreement was signed in September of 2009. If for any reason Cameroon changes its Constitution and SGSOC judges the amendments to be less favourable to its activities, the company could invoke this article to inhibit the application of the new constitutional clauses to its operations. This is an example of a stabilization clause on the Cameroonian Constitution which is rarely found in conventions between states and multinational companies and is totally illegal.
 


Herakles' devils seem not to be very bright. Its fate was doomed the moment it set foot on Cameroon soil. For the past four years local and international environmental conservationists and activists, environmental NGOs, scientists, lawyers, magistrates, human rights activists, patriots and a few petty-witted money-hungry administrators have cut and nailed Herakles' coffin.

By Azore Opio

Herakles Farms' invasion of the tropical rainforests in the South West Region of Cameroon threatened to thwart the region's most committed stewards, the indigenes, who have endured fear and uncertainty as their very livelihoods are menaced by those who are likely to profit from the deprivation of their land and its resources.

Herakles entered Cameroon sometime in 2009 or thereabouts guided by late Dr. Isiodre Timti and guised as Sithe Global Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC). It hastily went on to sign a 99-year contract with Cameroon's government for around 70,000 hectares (over 170,000 acres) in the Ndian and Kupe-Muanenguba regions. For the most part, Herakles was on unfriendly terms with the natives of Mundemba and Nguti from the start. The firm had cut corners with the national laws and international norms and along with these mishaps, sidelined the rightful owners of the land it very much wanted to exploit as can be affirmed by the following e-mail correspondence from one John DeMarco:

Hello GIZ/KWF friends,
"Allow me to explain a little how I got involved with the issue [Herakles]. I have to confess that I was actually the one who brought Sithe/Herakles to Cameroon a few years ago. I met the CEO, Bruce Wrobel at a different company meeting in Toronto, and he told me of his plans to develop oil palm in Africa. He put me in touch with his VP Varmine Farman. At the time, I naively believed them when they said they wanted their project to be a model of environmental and social responsibility, so I offered to help. I suggested that Cameroon was worth looking at, as I thought there could be areas of degraded forest where oil palm plantations could be an appropriate form of development, especially if planned with the local communities. I introduced them to an old friend, Dr. Timti as a specialist in oil palm. I also offered to help in planning the environmental and community aspects. I didn't hear much news until late in 2010, when they called me back to ask for help in land demarcation around villages within the concession. Once I got on the ground, in the Mundemba side of the concession, I realised that:

1)   There was definitely loss of primary, never logged forests in the area intended to plant palms, and
2) They had not followed the necessary steps in terms of genuine baseline studies, planning and consultation before starting to clear land.

So I ended up leaving them with some recommendations on how to go about the land use planning, impact assessment, etc.

When I was sent the ESIA document last week, it became more clear than ever that the company has no intention of following the various standards (RSPO, IFC, etc) that they claim to follow. I think they are trying to take advantage of the naivety and desperate poverty of Cameroonians to steal a huge area of land which is somebody's ancestral land, promising jobs as well as a number of other poorly defined benefits. Their strategy seems to be to win control of an area worth hundreds of millions of dollars, while paying almost nothing, and not even having a proper plan for the project. If they get the necessary approvals, they would even be in a position to sell the project for a huge profit to other investors, without sticking around to make the investment or keep their promises.
I happen to work as a consultant to mining companies and others who are trying to comply with IFC guidelines, and I can tell you this ESIA is a joke and an insult to anybody who takes those guidelines seriously.
So being at least partly responsible for bringing this company to Cameroon, I now feel a duty to try to limit the damage. I am passing on this information to help and encourage all those who are trying to ensure that Cameroon and the global environment do not end up being the big losers, while a small group of people make a huge profit through dishonest process..."

Injunctions

The war over 70,000 hectares of pristine forest had begun. And Herakles was about to make a mistake that would put it at peril – flouting court injunctions slammed on it by the Mundemba High Court on August 31, 2011, with a penalty of FCFA 500.000 per day if the restraining order was violated.

Herakles went ahead and violated the moratorium and a second one placed on its activities on February 27, 2012 temporarily prohibiting the company from moving forward "until the mandatory impact assessment is carried out with a view to evaluate the impact of their acts on the human and environment of these areas."
Earlier on August 12, 2011 Barrister Adolf Malle Nganya, counsel for Struggle to Economise Environment (SEFE), had prayed the court to restrain SGSOC, their servants and agents from further carrying out any activities in furtherance of their establishment of an oil palm plantation in Mundemba and Toko Subdivisions of Ndian Division.

Herakles gave no heed. Instead, Nasako Besingi, SEFE Director, and three of his collaborators, were arrested on November 14, 2012 by the police and detained in Mundemba.

Coercion
In this bold drama of land grabbing, the administrators seemed to have played a leading role though poorly.
On August 4, 2011, in Mundemba, a senior territorial administrator attempted to coerce stakeholders at a meeting into accepting the proceedings of the meeting as a green light for SGSOC.

While community leaders and advocates have been knocking on all possible doors to bring Herakles to order, international institutions and NGOs have been doing their own independent investigations.

Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) in a July 2013 assessment of process to obtain the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) from communities in Mundemba and Nguti Subdivisions summarises thus:

"Communities' decisions about the Herakles/SGSOC project have not been free from coercion; communities have not been informed in advance of major decisions; communities have not given their consent for development on their lands.
Together the above findings support the view that communities' right to give or withhold their FPIC for the Herakles/SGSOC palm oil development project that overlaps their lands has not been respected. Given the facts that (i) the company is targeting over 70,000 hectares of communities' customary lands, especially forests, for conversion from communally managed forests to private, monoculture palm production, and (ii) local peoples rely upon those lands and forests to secure their current and future livelihood needs, the report predicts a potential human rights and livelihood disaster if these plans continue."

The FPP report further states that communities had felt compelled to sign up to Herakles/SGSOC plans, even when there was widespread local disagreement and dissent. In addition, local consultations by Herakles/SGSOC focused mainly on sharing information with some local traditional leaders through a limited number of short meetings. As such, communities have not been informed in advance of decisions.

Phony Firm?
E-mail correspondences that sprung a leak paint a bleak picture of Herakles/SGSOC as a deceitful, if not phony enterprise out to reap enormously by sowing little. 

An e-mails run thus with names of correspondents withheld. 

On August 31, 2012 a correspondent wrote;

"Presently, the workers in the nursery are paid without tax and social insurance contributions. This is a violation of the Cameroon law. However, the company has decided to start paying the workers through the bank but the workers have not been properly informed about how their tax and social insurance contribution will be deducted from their wages. The workers are paid US$ 5 (2,500) frs a day and they have not been informed if the amount will increase daily to enable them get the same amount monthly as when they were not paying taxes and social insurance contributions. If not properly handled, an NGO if informed will pick this up against the company and it will go on the newspapers."

Another e-mail said the pace of clearing land was slow and the cost astronomical roughly US$ 40,000 per hectare – only 5 hectares were cleared in 44 days with those involved not knowing what to do, "if this continues it will lead to disaster... I was asked to compile a monthly report for investors, but only to highlight the positive aspects..."

The tones in the e-mails expressed a great deal of doubt about the entire Herakles project.

"I feel sorry for Herakles – the way things are at the moment in their Limbe office there is absolutely NO way they will reach anywhere near their planting targets for this year let alone next year."

The correspondent said if the implementation of the project was left in the hands of certain people, it would fail because they had no clue about Sustainable Oil Palm Plantation Development.

"If they cannot get the nursery right, then what more?... I have this strange feeling that this is all a 'fund raising tactic' – so that they can tell potential investors that they have 'X Million'  seedlings in four large nurseries, and that they can started planting/planted 'Y' hectares. I sincerely hope that it is not the case. Because if it is indeed the case, shit will hit the fan when the truth comes out and you can be rest assured that they will not be able to raise any capital abroad – the project will collapse – and the Government will step in with a sledgehammer."

Cash Cow

The e-mails said Herakles was using the seedlings/nursery to show the investors they have enough planting material – "Investors will be fools to buy into this concept – but this happens with greedy speculators who are ignorant of the modalities of industrial oil palm plantation development. No doubt 'All for Africa' investors who are purchasing the trees (palms) are being taken for a ride...extraction of timber is where the money is coming from – it is Herakles Farms' cash cow; the arrangement they have with the current government is unbelievable."

Another one says US-based advisors to some West African countries were annoyed at the fact that foreign investors are only interested in monocrop oil palm plantation colonial style in West Africa (Cameroon included) and not food production to the detriment of the local population.

"In fact, they have become extremely critical of Herakles, to the point that they are now advising the Government of Cameroon to include an enforceable clause in the land lease agreement with foreign investors (Herakles included), to ensure that inter-cropping is an essential component of sustainable oil palm plantation development. As you know the Herakles land lease agreement is yet to be formalised. The President is under tremendous pressure not to sign the lease..."

Meanwhile, Greenpeace International and the Oakland Institute in the US have lashed out at the Cameroonian government's decision to lift their suspension of Herakles Farms' forest clearing activities. 

Despite widespread opposition from communities concerned about losing their lands and livelihoods, allegations of corruption and violations of national and international laws, Herakles is still insisting on pushing ahead with its project.
"This project should be cancelled permanently, as it would have devastating social and environmental consequences for the region," said Irène Wabiwa, forest campaigner for Greenpeace Africa.

A report released by the Oakland Institute and Greenpeace International speaks volumes of widespread misconduct by Herakles Farms.

Internal company communications and documents reveal that the company is apparently well aware that it is operating in Cameroon without all required permits and authorisations, and that bribery may have been used in the attempt to gain consent and other approvals for the project.

The US authorities are aware of the allegations of corruption, and Greenpeace and the Oakland Institute believe both the US and Cameroonian governments should thoroughly investigate these accusations.
"In the face of evidence that has been laid bare by the Oakland Institute and Greenpeace International, we wonder why the hands of the Cameroonian Government are still tied, stopping it from doing right by its people and the country," said Anuradha  Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute. 

Greenpeace and the Oakland Institute are calling for a moratorium on all large-scale land concessions in Cameroon until appropriate safeguards are introduced to protect the livelihoods of local communities and the forests on which they depend.
If this project is not stopped, Herakles Farms' palm oil plantation would set a very bad example to investors on how large-scale agribusiness projects can be conducted on the continent.


Herakles Farms says it had been acting properly. "The Company had obtained permission to proceed and always has and will comply fully and transparently with government regulations in force," the company said in a statement. "The Company is deeply distressed to see so many of its committed Cameroonian employees being left without jobs for an uncertain period of time," Herakles Farms added. "The company finds these events especially tragic and will do all it can to achieve a positive outcome." The lies from SGSOC. Read more from - http://betockvoices.page.tl/

The Government of Cameroon has fallen for the corporate trickery and agreed to give Herakles complete legal impunity in their plans. Herakles farms has been made exempt from national law – giving them the power to destroy protected nature reserves, force people from their land, and "search, apprehend, detain, exclude, and evict" anyone trespassing on their leased land – power which they have used to detain protestors and local citizens at wilL. All complaints and reports arising from this illegal project, including violations of forestry regulations, corruption and seizing of local cocoa farms have being ignored for the interest and benefits of the few individuals. Like others before in Cameroon incarceration will be their retirement home in the coming years not the villages/towns. Herakles Farms (SGSOC) grand experience in Cameroon is pushing that envelope, land grabbing and double-dealing for profit!
U.S.-owned palm oil firm Herakles Farms is seeking to sell off existing plantations in Cameroon- http://www.trust.org/item/20130913170151-rh2og/?source=hpbreaking

Cameroonians realise what Herakles Farms really plans for their forests – logging rights  http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/makingwaves/cameroon-communities-realise-what-herakles-fa/blog/46587/

The young, elegant, and quick thinking Chief of Sikam is one of the new driving forces to have Herakles back in the region. "I need SGSOC in Sikam to drive out all the trouble makers from my land" http://irokoheritage.com/2013/10/17/heracles-farms-vs-the-people-of-nguti-reasons-they-dont-want-a-giant-oil-palm-plantation-set-up-in-their-backyard/

As said by few Land grabbers "You can acquire any soul in that region with a beer" - More from - http://betockvoices.page.tl/Pushing-the-envelope-.htm


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Thursday, October 24, 2013

[biofuelwatch] EXCLUSIVE from The Biomass Monitor: Biomass Incinerator Noise a Nightmare to Neighbors



Biomass Incinerator Noise a Nightmare to Neighbors 

- by Josh Schlossberg, The Biomass Monitor

A “continuous roar.” Jet planes “revving” up for takeoff. Being on an “aircraft carrier during operations.” That’s how neighbors of theGainesville Renewable Energy Center (GREC) describe the noise coming from the 100 megawatt biomass incinerator’s initial test runs.

Air pollution, climate disruption, forest degradation, and water consumption are the most obvious drawbacks of biomass incineration. Yet community members unlucky enough to live in close proximity to biomass power facilities must also endure wood dust, truck traffic, and — most distressingly — noise from the facility itself.

As a rash of taxpayer subsidized biomass incinerators spreads across the U.S., more and more communities — from Gainesville, Florida to Rothschild, Wisconsin -- are literally waking up to this unbearable noise... [READ MORE]

--
Josh Schlossberg
Anti-Biomass Incineration Campaign, Energy Justice Network

Find Energy Justice Network on Facebook and Twitter

"Compromise is often necessary, but it ought not to originate with environmental leaders. Our role is to hold fast to what we believe is right, to fight for it, to find allies, and to adduce all possible arguments for our cause. If we cannot find enough vigor in us or our friends to win, then let someone else propose the compromise, which we must then work hard to coax our way. We thus become a nucleus around which activists can build and function." -- David Brower

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[biofuelwatch] A Growing Movement Against Plantations in West Papua - Three Years of the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate



Three years of MIFEE (part 1): A Growing Movement Against Plantations in West Papua


We, the indigenous people of Yowied Village reject corporations coming on to our land in Tubang District for the following reasons:

there is not so much land around Yowied Village.

Our lives are dependent on what our environment can provide.

Where will the future generations go?”

The sign is tied with coconut leaves, a signal that it is a ‘sasih’ marker, a traditional means to forbid passage. Similar signs can be seen in almost all villages in the area. They are backed up by an agreement between all villages in the area that no-one should give up their land, under pain of death. It’s a desperate first act of defiance to a modern world they know has no place for them. A plantations mega-project has been imposed on Merauke, West Papua, and 2.5 million hectares of forest, grassland and swamps – the ancestral lands of the Malind people – are being targeted for oil palm, industrial timber and sugar cane.

For now, the natural ecosystem in remote Tubang District is still in good condition, and the Malind Woyu Maklew people who live in the area can easily find all they need from the forest by hunting, gathering and fishing. The former chief of Yowied village has claimed that he could easily live on only $2 a month, which he would use to buy tobacco and betel nut – everything else could be got from the forest.

Throughout Merauke Regency in the southern part of West Papua, a land controversially annexed by Indonesia 50 years ago, indigenous communities are having to learn fast how to resist corporate manipulations. In 2009 ambitious local politicians proposed Merauke as Indonesia’s new centre for industrialised agricultural growth. This was in the aftermath of the 2008 global food crisis, when governments worldwide got preoccupied about national food security, prompting a wave of land-grabbing globally. The Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE), as it became known, was officially launched three years ago in August 2010. Around 50 provisional permits have been issued to around 20 corporate groups, mostly from Indonesia or South Korea.

Starvation and rebellion as the companies move in.

They claimed that MIFEE would ‘Feed Indonesia, then feed the world’. But in the end, it brought hunger. In Zanegi, one of the first villages to be caught up in MIFEE-related development, five children have died in the first half of 2013 from malnutrition and preventable diseases thought to be linked to pollution. Medco, the company involved, is not even producing food. Its industrial forestry plantation is currently turning the Zanegi people’s ancestral forest into wood chips. These are then loaded onto ships and exported to Korea by Medco’s joint venture partner LG International, to be burnt in power stations or turned into fibreboard.

Zanegi too has had to learn to resist. Villagers were tricked out of their land by Medco, who gave them a ‘Certificate of Appreciation’ and US$33,400. The people had no idea that they were signing away their forest, their means of subsistence, their identity. Then the company started taking away the timber, giving people a fraction of the price the logs were worth and breaking their promise to leave intact forest around sago groves and sacred sites. Eventually the people decided to block the company’s access. If they heard chainsaws then they would come running, and in this way they successfully managed to keep the company from operating on their land for over a year.

Despite their resistance, Zanegi has suffered. The forest is gone and the village is empty nowadays as people regularly abandon the village, staying in temporary camps to try to hunt the few remaining forest animals. Others work for the company, but their daily pay is only enough to buy a day’s food for a family. Swamps are poisoned with pesticide residues from the tree nurseries, fish swim erratically as if drunk and then die. People do not have enough to eat, especially the women who always feed their husbands and children before themselves. Traditional beliefs in this area mean that deaths are thought to be linked to black magic. This has led to a conflict which has left several community leaders imprisoned, accused of killing someone who was believed to be a sorcerer. Three of the men have died in prison in the last year, deaths which are also put down to black magic.

The story of Zanegi village has become well known around the Merauke area: it is a warning of what happens when villagers sell their land, and that prompts people in other villages to hold out against the companies. Another company, Rajawali, is trying to set up a sugar cane plantation near the coast. The company successfully bought up land belonging to Domande village, but other villages, Onggari and Kaiburze, have been resolute in their refusal to sell. This is despite intense pressure from the Rajawali corporation, which has also been accused of illegally felling trees on Onggari village’s territory.

In Domande Village, in June 2013, local people angry about unpaid timber compensation set up a blockade, and some days later ordered Rajawali’s loggers to leave the area. As in Zanegi, they had already been tricked out of their land, but were still fighting to get fair compensation for the trees at least. Previously the villagers had taken action after Rajawali cleared a burial ground. Living in the plantation zone means you must be on constant alert to companies overstepping the line.

Fear and conflict is only ever one step behind the company. Back in Yowied, company guards working for PT Mayora, the company which is trying to gain access to plant sugar-cane, accused people of being separatist rebels, fighting for West Papuan independence. Seeing that villagers were preparing to run to the forest in fear, some community leaders felt forced to sign a document PT Mayora were presenting them. In nearby Woboyu, villagers were scared a deadly conflict would break out after rumours spread that people from another village were collaborating with PT Astra to survey customary land boundaries. Both companies are planning sugar-cane plantations.

Local community activists involved in the SSUMAWOMA forum recorded video interviews in these two villages which they then took to Merauke city. After discussing the issue one Sunday afternoon, about 100 people decided to take action, and the next day occupied PT Mayora’s office in the city, demanding that if companies want to propose new plantations, they approach people in a reasonable way, and not just show up causing chaos, divisions, intimidation and confusion. The local regency leader agreed to meet with representatives after the action and agreed to order PT Mayora to temporarily leave the land, but it is known that the company is still looking for a new strategy to convince villagers.

The SSUMAWOMA Forum is a group that has emerged in recent months, made up mostly of university graduates who have roots in the western part of Merauke Regency. With the backing of the communities, they are articulating their opposition to all plantation plans, at least as long as the people lack the skills or experience to get meaningful employment with companies, meaning they end up marginalised on their own land. They bring the voice of the villagers to the public and government, showing how the people have nothing to gain from plantations and, at the same time, have so much to lose: their forest, their livelihood, their culture and their identity.

The Malind people are not just dependent on the forest for their daily needs. The forest defines every aspect of who they are. In Malind cosmology mortal humans are the third generation; the first two generations of their ancestors remain immortal in the environment around them, and the Earth is seen as mother. Each clan is intimately connected to their dema or totem – a part of the ecosystem: Gebze with coconut, Mahuze with sago, Basik-Basik with wild pigs, Samkakai with tree kangaroos. It is incomprehensible for Malind people that the forest might be gone, if it is their culture becomes no more than a sad symbol, their sense of being torn apart.

“The Malind Anim culture is not just a dance, a ritual or a carving. It is not a mere representation of a culture, decorated in mud, leaves and vines” (SSUMAWOMA forum)

When Oil Palm wears a Uniform

In the eastern part of Merauke is the border with Papua New Guinea. The area is militarised, under the pretext of protecting the border zone. For decades local people have had to live with constant intimidation from the troops at dozens of outposts strung along the border. Here traditional society has faced even more challenges; many women have been raped, and subsistence becomes more difficult when military personnel have hunted many of the forest animals.

The military is a source of terror and trauma in West Papua, having waged a war on its people over the last 50 years, protecting its own interests and Indonesia’s economic agenda. Shooting incidents are common, independence movements are brutally crushed, torture, imprisonment and random beatings are everyday hazards. Racist attitudes towards black-skinned Papuans prevail. The climate of fear and resentment has long been established throughout Papua. Even though Merauke has not been a zone of intense pro-independence activity recently, this is why living alongside the military still means constant tension.

All MIFEE companies use the military (or police mobile brigade) as security, adding to the pressure on people to hand over their land, but in this eastern strip, near the border, the military presence is felt more strongly. This area has been allocated for oil palm, with at least four corporate groups wanting to develop big plantations. Unsurprisingly, the companies have found it easier to gain access in this area, and several are now clearing the forest. Nevertheless, a few clans are still resisting, refusing to sell their land, and there have been blockades here too.

The going rate for compensating indigenous people for the annihilation of their world works out at about US$30 per hectare. This amount is pitiful if it is seen as a replacement for the many lifetimes which a forest could sustain, especially once that amount is shared out between different families. But at the moment when the cash is handed over for a few thousands of hectares, for the communities, as people who are desperately poor in terms of the money economy, it seems a huge amount In several cases, this cash handover has been the cause of conflict between villages, clans or individuals, wrenching the community apart.

Far away in Jakarta, Indonesia’s national development master plan still tells the official story: MIFEE is a well-planned and structured development which will provide food crops such as rice, corn, soybeans and beef for the nation. It totally ignores reality, which is that the land is being gobbled up by the same oil palm, sugar and forestry multinationals that have devastated many of Indonesia’s other islands. And as investment fever spreads, oil palm companies are also lining up to establish or expand their plantations elsewhere in West Papua.

Indigenous resistance sometimes seems desperate – what chance do forest people stand against multinationals and the military? But companies remain cautious about entering West Papua, fearing local anger, and many ambitious investment plans have failed here. Standing up to these companies costs the Malind so much, but really it is their only chance to survive as a people, and protect their land.

—-

This is the first of three essays written to give an overview of the MIFEE project, three years after it was officially launched on August 11 2010. The second article is a more in-depth analysis of how plantation companies have affected indigenous communities over the last three years.

The third article is a much longer analysis of the mismatch between the original plan of a food estate to “feed Indonesia, then feed the world” and the reality: vast oil palm, sugar cane and industrial forestry plantations. It also examines how this food estate myth has persisted,providing legitimacy to a national development plan which ignores communities, and to a policy for West Papua which is promoting development while doing nothing to address the underlying causes of West Papua’s problems.

List of key companies involved in MIFEE:

  • Medco (Indonesian oil and gas company)
  • LG International (Korean TNC, best known for its electronic products)
  • Rajawali (Indonesian business conglomerate)
  • Daewoo International (Part of South Korean Posco TNC)
  • Korindo (Korean business conglomerate with diverse businesses in Indonesia)
  • Wilmar International (Asian plantation and grain trading giant, and biodiesel producer, also owns the company which markets CSR Sugar in Australia)
  • AMS Plantations (The plantation company belonging to the younger brother of Wilmar’s co-founder)
  • Astra Agro Lestari (Indonesian plantations company, ultimately owned by British-registered corporation Jardine Matheson)
  • Mayora (Indonesian food company)
  • China Gate Agriculture Development (little known company, also South Korean)
  • Moorim Paper (Korean paper company)
  • Central Cipta Murdaya (Indonesian conglomerate – boss is in prison for paying bribes for plantation permits elsewhere but business goes on regardless)
  • Texmaco (Indonesian conglomerate focusing on forestry)

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