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New expansion of oil palm plantations, Sao Tome and Principe


Description:

São Tomé and Principe (Biosphere Reserve) are located in the west coast of Africa with unique flora and fauna. Of a total avifauna of 143 species, including 72 breeding residents, 28 species are endemic to São Tomé and Principe. Twelve of the endemics are species of global conservation concern [5]. According to WRM report [3], the Oil palm grows naturally on the two main islands. Although the islands were not inhabited when the Portuguese arrived between 1469 and 1472, the subsequent introduction of sugar cane cultivation based on slave labour led to the forced arrival of Africans from Benin, Congo and Angola who brought with them the traditional uses of this oil palm (Elaeis guineesis). Their leaves, traditionally have  been used in basket weaving, bags, brooms by local people[4]. Moreover, this type of palm is used to produce wine across the entire country too .The product generates considerable income for wine extractors and vendors. This oil is extracted by the local suppliers for agricultural use, although it is also sold [3]. After the Independence of the islands, the European Community financed the plantation of 650 hectares of oil palm in Ribeira Peixe, in the south of São Tomé island. The first palm oil mill (Empresa de Óleos Vegetais – EMOLVE) was established by a loan from the European Investment Bank. The mill was the capacity to meet the  food oil needs of the entire population in the island. During the 1980s, EMOLVE continued expanding its palm plantations. By 1990, EMOLVE's industrial plant produced about 2,000 oil tonnes/year.  In 1999, theoil production declined, falling to less than 100 tonnes/year, and finally coming to a halt in 2007. Several factors were behind this: for one, the oil palm groves grew old, and for another, the company’s equipment and infrastructure deteriorated. In 2008, the equipment was somewhat improved with a contribution from the government of Taiwan. but the problem was not fully resolved [3].

In 2009 , Agripalma, a subsidiary of STP Invest and São Tomé investors  acquired a concession to recover and expand oil palm plantations (5,000 ha) [5]. The aim of the oil palm expansion by Socfinco (Agripalma subsidiary) was the production of palm oil for its further processing into biofuel in Belgium [9]. The danger is aggravated by the rehabilitation and expansion of the plantation from the current 610 hectares to approximately 5,000 hectares. People of Prince Island, rebelled against the agreement, not allowing the deforestation of more than 1,000 hectares of land in the Sundy area, to produce palm oil. Because of the Prince's refusal the government looked for more land on the island of São Tomé to respond to the agreement signed in 2009 between the State and Agripalma[8]. This new expansion took place close to the Monte Carmo forests of the Obô Natural Park and overlapping with the Natural Park’s buffer zone [3].  For planting the oil palm trees, the state expropriated land from agricultures to Agripalma Company generating land conflicts that the farmers are individually fighting. For example, a national farmer, who since the end of the 1990s has benefited from a medium-sized agricultural enterprise in the new oil palm expansion area. He protested to the Agriculture Ministry that the company Agripalma planted over several hectares of his land. He is threatening to “bring the oil palm planted by Agripalma down, within the space that belongs to me if the Ministry doesn’t solve the problem” [10]. He lost 13 hectares of his land in favor of the Agripalma Company, according to the law, he should be compensated, but at the time, the Government institutions, refused to pay the pre-defined amount.

According to Bird Life International [5], the Natural Park is suffering a serious threats “resulting from opening up access to the forest due to oil palm plantations, including increasing hunting and extractive pressures on the forest birds and other biodiversity”. International NGOs have developed a campaign to avoid losing the rich biodiversity because of the land grabbing.

Since 2013,  some citizens are organizing to fight the “ongoing environmental crime” (according to them). They say “We intend to create a citizen movement to defend our environment” "This is the environmental crime that is being committed by the state of São Tomé!"[8]. They also complain that the oil palm is replacing their staple food that is coconut.

 In July of 2013, following legal complains by citizens, the Saotoméan court has approved an injunction against Agripalma, imposing restrictions on its development of a palm oil plantation in the country. However, the court's decision does not halt the company's clearing work for the establishment of palm oil plantations. It merely imposes conditions with the objective of protecting specific areas [6, 11].

Basic Data

Name of conflict:New expansion of oil palm plantations, Sao Tome and Principe
Country:Sao Tome and Principe
State or province:Sao Tome and Principe Islands
Location of conflict:Ribeira Peixe, Obô Natural Park (Sao Tome), Sundy area (Principe)
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:Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Deforestation
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Palm oil
Land

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Following the islands' 1975 independence, the plantations were expanded over 650 hectares in Ribeira Peixe, in the south of São Tomé island. And the first palm oil mill (Empresa de Óleos Vegetais – EMOLVE) was established. During the 1980s, EMOLVE continued expanding its palm plantations.

By 1990, EMOLVE's industrial plant produced about 2,000 oil tonnes/year. In 1999 there was a decline, falling to less than 100 tonnes/year, and finally coming to a halt in 2007. Several factors were behind this: for one, the oil palm groves grew old, and for another, the company’s equipment and infrastructure deteriorated.

In 2008, the equipment was somewhat improved with a contribution from the government of Taiwan. but the problem was not fully resolved [3].

In 2009 , Agripalma, a subsidiary of STP Invest and São Tomé investors acquired a concession to recover and expand oil palm plantations (5,000 ha) [5]. The the aim of the oil palm expansion by Socfinco (Agripalma subsidiary) was the production of palm oil for its further processing into biofuel in Belgium [9].

Project area:5,000
Level of Investment for the conflictive project75,000,000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:2009
Company names or state enterprises:Socfinco from Belgium - he São Tomean State signed an agreement with Belgian company Socfinco for palm oil operation
EMOLVE
Agripalma from Belgium - joint venture between Socfinco SA and the government of Sao Tome & Principe (Socfinco’s subsidiary Agripalma )
Relevant government actors:Government of Sao Tome & Principe
Agriculture Ministry
International and Finance InstitutionsEuropean Investment Bank - A loan from the European Investment Bank made it possible to establish the first palm oil mill (EMOLVE company)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Movimento de Defesa das Florestas de São Tomé e Principe
Bird Life International (http://datazone.birdlife.org/home)
RSPB. Giving nature a home (https://www.rspb.org.uk/)
Associação dos Biólogos Santomenses (ABS)
FIAN

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Assessment of the populations of the three critically endangered species ongoing

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Food insecurity (crop damage)
Other Environmental impactsConflict between Agripalma and Monte Carmo forests of the Obô Natural Park and overlapping with the Natural Park’s buffer zone
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession
Potential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Application of existing regulations
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Although the court has approved an injunction against Agripalma imposing restrictions on its development of a palm oil plantation in the country, this court's decision does not halt the company's clearing work for the establishment of palm oil plantations. It merely imposes conditions with the objective of protecting specific areas. Indeed, the environmentalists, headed by the president of the bar association and a former public prosecutor, have declared that they are not opposed to Agripalma's US$38.5m investment, and that they only want to defend the country's flora and fauna. Agripalma has rejected the environmentalists' accusations of a violation of the country's nature preservation laws.

Sources & Materials

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

[3] Ricardo Carrere. 2013. Oil palm in Africa: past, present and future scenarios.
https://wrm.org.uy/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Oil_Palm_in_Africa_2013.pdf

[4] Ministry of Natural Resources. 2007. NATIONAL REPORT ON THE STATUS OF BIODIVERSITY IN S.TOMÉ AND PRÍNCIPE
https://www.cbd.int/doc/world/st/st-nr-03-en.pdf

[6] FIAN. 2017. Companies-Land grabbing
https://fian-ch.org/content/uploads/Agrarunternehmen.pdf

[1] Maior empresa do país promete 10 mil toneladas de óleo alimentar a partir de 2016
https://www.telanon.info/tag/agripalma/

[2] São Tomé and Príncipe: Biodiversity threatened by oil palm plantations. 2012
http://wrm.org.uy/articles-from-the-wrm-bulletin/section2/sao-tome-and-principe-biodiversity-threatened-by-oil-palm-plantations/

[5] Sao Tome Lowland Forest (Palm Oil Plantation expansion)
http://www.birdlife.org/africa/sao-tome-lowland-forest-palm-oil-plantation-expansion

[6] Téla Nón. 2013. Tribunal mostra sinal de STOP à empresa Agripalma
http://www.telanon.info/sociedade/2013/08/12/14103/tribunal-mostra-sinal-de-stop-a-empresa-agripalma/

[7] Socfin. Agripalma webside
http://www.socfin.com/en/locations/companies/detail/agripalma

[8] Téla Nón. 2013. Sociedade civil denuncia crime ambiental na zona sul de São Tomé
http://www.telanon.info/sociedade/2013/06/04/13409/sociedade-civil-denuncia-crime-ambiental-na-zona-sul-de-sao-tome/

[9] Belgian company to produce palm oil in Sao Tome and Principe
https://macauhub.com.mo/2009/10/22/7979/

[10] Téla Nón. 2014. Conflito de terra na Ribeira Peixe coloca batata quente nas mãos do Ministro da Agricultura
https://www.telanon.info/sociedade/2014/09/22/17455/conflito-de-terra-na-ribeira-peixe-coloca-batata-quente-nas-maos-do-ministro-da-agricultura/

[11] 2013. Court injunction to limit development of palm oil plantation
http://country.eiu.com/article.aspx?articleid=900843274&Country=S%c3%a3o%20Tom%c3%a9%20and%20Pr%c3%adncipe&topic=Economy&subtopic=Forecast&subsubtopic=Economic+growth&u=1&pid=776625261&oid=776625261&uid=1

Meta information

Contributor:Teresa Perez (WRM)
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1089

Images

 

Source: WRM https://wrm.org.uy/articles-from-the-wrm-bulletin/section2/sao-tome-and-principe-biodiversity-threatened-by-oil-palm-plantations/

Biodiversity threatened by oil palm plantations.20113

Source: https://www.telanon.info/tag/agripalma/

Oil palm expansion in São Tomé