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BioPalm plantation and Bagyéli community, Cameroon

A 200,000 ha oil palm concession violates human rights of hunter-gatherer Bagyéli communities in Cameroon


In August of 2011 the Government of Cameroon reportedly signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Singapore-based SIVA Group (parent corporation of BioPalm Ltd) for a 200,000 ha oil palm concession in Cameroon’s Southern Océan province [1, 2, 3]. The links between subsidiaries directly involved in operations remains unclear - however, research conducted by Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) indicates BioPalm Energy Ltd operates in Cameroon through a subsidiary known as Palm Resources Cameroon Ltd  [1]. Neither SIVA group nor BioPalm Energy Ltd are listed as members of RSPO [2, 3]. However, Geoff Palm, of whom BioPalm Energy has been listed as a stakeholder or partner in a joint venture, does hold this certification.  The oil palm concession currently straddles customary territories of the Bagyéli hunter-gatherer community who derive medicine, meat, fish and other resources from the forest. Reportedly BioPalm representatives promised to allocate two to four kilometers of land on each side of roads passing through concessions, to satisfy their need for space for farming [1, 4].  Bagyéli community members have expressed concern about this arrangement, stating the space is inefficient for provisioning resources, and if the population were to increase [1]. BioPalm Energy operations also overlap with existing timber/logging concessions as of September 2012 [1]. In 2000 forest area surrounding Bella and Moungué villages was declared a Forest Management Unit (FMU) allocated to a company called MMG for a logging concession, as a pilot project for equitable extractive activity financed by Agence Canadienne de Developpement International (ACDI) [1]. MMG management, abiding to FMU principals of community governance, maintaining ecological equilibrium, ensuring needs of local populations and survival of communities are uncompromised by clearings, was reportedly held in favor by Bassa, Bakoko and Bagyéli communities living in the vicinity of logging operations [1]. MMF management allows access and some usage of resources by forest communities living within concessions. BioPalm’s operations overlap with MMF managed logging concessions - resulting in tensions with MMF as well as the Bagyéli [1]. Unlike commercial logging activity in the area, the development of oil palm plantations by BioPalm necessitate clear-cutting trees [1].        Markers delineating projected BioPalm operations reportedly overlaps territories of three villages, and were placed without any prior knowledge or consent by villagers - violating Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) guidelines [1, 5]. The lack of FPIC with Bagyéli communities is in violation of article 32 of United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples (UNDRIP), endorsed by Cameroon [1, 6].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:BioPalm plantation and Bagyéli community, Cameroon
State or province:South Province
Location of conflict:Océan Department
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Deforestation
Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Palm oil
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Large-scale 200,000 ha oil palm plantation slated for palm oil production - one of four other large-scale oil palm plantations that has been announced by Cameroon's government. The project is located in the South of Cameroon at the meeting of the Congo basin and the Atlantic Ocean [1]. The project emerges in light of a 1.5 billion USD investment launched by Cameroon's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in 2011 [1]. Biopalm began operations in Cameroon as advised by foreign investment aid Cameroon Investment Corporation [1]. The BioPalm oil palm plantation is one of several projects in the Ocean province that have displaced rural communities, such as a railway, deep sea port and a gas plant.

Project area:200,000
Level of Investment:1,420,055.00
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:Bagyéli, Bakoko and Bassa communities
Start of the conflict:01/08/2012
Company names or state enterprises:SIVA Group from India
Biopalm Energy from Singapore
Relevant government actors:Vice Prime Minister of Cameroon's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MINADER)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Forest Peoples Programme -
Okani -
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Bagyéli communities
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Official complaint letters and petitions
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Global warming
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Potential: Infectious diseases, Malnutrition, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Criminalization of activists
Development of alternatives:Forest Peoples Programme advises corporations and government involved in project operations to revisit RSPO principals and criteria and ensure their activities abide to international human rights law to avoid risk of increased conflict and legal intervention.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Information regarding the current state of affairs and conflict are not readily available.
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

[5] Free and Informed Prior Consent
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] Forest Peoples Programme (2013). Conflict or Consent? The oil palm sector at a crossroads. Accessed May 12, 2017.
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Africa: New land grabs exposed. Asian palm oil companies run into trouble
[click to view]

[2] Biopalm Energy Limited: Company Overview
[click to view]

Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil: About Us
[click to view]

[3] SIVA group: Quick Facts
[click to view]

[4] BioPalm plantation will lead to destruction of Bagyeli communities in Cameroon
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Sophia Rokhlin, ICTA-UAB
Last update18/08/2019
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