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Palm oil and rubber plantation deforestation, Gabon


Two agro-industrial companies, Olam International and SIAT Gabon, are involved in the large-scale development of palm oil and rubber plantations in locations spread out around Gabon. The plantations being developed by Olam are by far the largest. The Gabonese government has allocated a total of 300,000ha to the company. Olam, which has had timber concessions in Gabon since 1999, but only obtained the palm and rubber land in the late 2000’s, wants to develop at least 180,000 hectares by 2018/2019, including 100,000 hectares of industrial palm oil plantations and up to 30,000 hectares of smallholder palm plantations and 50,000 hectares of rubber plantations. The development of the plantations involves the clearing of large areas of pristine tropical forest that communities depend on for their livelihoods and will see an influx of people seeking work in previously remote rural communities. The project will benefit from a 16-year income tax holiday, and exemptions on payment of duties or tax on machinery, gas, oil, fertilisers and other inputs[2]. Land insecurity, food insecurity, working conditions and resource management issues are other concerns[1].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Palm oil and rubber plantation deforestation, Gabon
State or province:Woleu-Ntem
Location of conflict:Oyem
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:Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Logging and non timber extraction
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Timber
Palm oil
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Olam is reported to want to reach a production of at least 60,000 tons of rubber by 2016[1]. A McKinsey study on Olam's investment portfolio in Gabon, quoted in a report by Rainforest Foundation UK states that, when completed, it would be 'Africa's biggest oil palm plantation', with production of just under 0.5 million tonnes of crude palm oil (CPO) per year, which would make the country Africa's second largest palm oil producer. The McKinsey study claims the project will lead to an 85 per cent increase in the area of commercial agriculture in Gabon by 2022, and that the combined Olam investments will lead to a 1.1 per cent per annum boost to non-oil GDP[2].

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Project area:315000
Level of Investment for the conflictive project236000000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:2010
Company names or state enterprises:SIAT Gabon
National Centre for Scientific Research of Gabon
Congolaise Industrielle des Bois, subsidiary of OLAM (CIB or OLAM) from Singapore
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Forests, Directorate General Environment
International and Finance InstitutionsBank of Central African States (BEAC)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Collective populations of the villages affected by the project Olam to Woleu-Ntem, Rainforest Foundation UK, Brainforest Gabon, World Rainforest Movement
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Trade unions
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Criminalization of activists
Institutional changes
Negotiated alternative solution
New legislation
Proposal and development of alternatives:Civil society in Gabon is lobbying for greater recognition of land rights, given that land is owned by the state, making people essentially landless. Recognising local realities in large scale agro projects would require consent from communities and integration of economic social, cultural, environmental, land and territorial issues.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Large-scale plantation development is going ahead. Some measures are being put in place to address concerns about negative effects, but it seems inevitable that there will be massive social and environmental consequences for the communities concerned.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Law 022/2008 on agricultural Code11

Law 023/2008 on development policy

Law 16/01 Forestry Code

Laws No. 14/63 and No. 15/63 (land allocation

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

[1] Ndijimbi, Franck (2013). Étude sur l’impact des plantations agro-industrielles de palmiers à huile et d’hévéas sur les populations du Gabon. Available at: Accessed 28 March 2013.
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[2] Rainforest Foundation UK (2013). Case studies of new oil palm developments in the Congo Basin. Available at: Accessed 28 March 2013.
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Reuters (2013). Gabon jails activist for defaming ally of president. Available at: Accessed 10 April 2013.
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Ndijimbi, Franck (2013). Les plantations agro-industrielles, menace sérieuse pour le mode vie des populations rurales au Gabon. Available at: Accessed 9 April 2013.
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Ejolt moderators
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:242
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