Sunday, November 3, 2013

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






Cameroon: Greenpeace Africa Opposes Stifling of Free Speech Over Herakles Farms Project, Cameroon

press release

Greenpeace Africa strongly disagrees with the decision of Cameroonian authorities to forbid local NGO Nature Cameroon from informing residents of the threats posed by Herakles Farms palm oil project to their livelihoods and environment in the country's South West Region.

The Divisional Officer of Nguti issued the order to allegedly preserve "peace, law and order" in the area. Thus far the activities of Nature Cameroon have been conducted in an official and peaceful manner.

"This suspension order is the latest suppression of Cameroonian civil society as it attempts to inform people of the risks of this palm oil project," says Fiona Musana, director of communications with Greenpeace Africa.
"Herakles has failed in its legal obligations to satisfactorily consult and inform residents of the implications of their project. Nature Cameroon are merely fulfilling that role in a peaceful manner and truthfully if there is a threat to the peace in the area it comes not from NGOs, but from the company itself."

Greenpeace Africa calls on the Cameroonian authorities to revoke this order and to fully respect the rights of Cameroonian civil society to question and voice opposition over ill-conceived projects such as that of Herakles Farms.


SGSOC is our own bogus minister - "In Manyemen private farms now are community land" declared the Chief of Ndong - Manyemen but he forget to say that he furnished all the Ndong future farm lands and forest to SGSOC for kicks. More from - http://betockvoices.page.tl/


Subject: [Manyemen_uk] Fw: Battle to Stop Herakles Illegal Grap Of Land 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


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