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 . 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 . BioPalm Energy operations also overlap with existing timber/logging concessions as of September 2012 . 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) . 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 . 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 . Unlike commercial logging activity in the area, the development of oil palm plantations by BioPalm necessitate clear-cutting trees . 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].
Additionally, Environmental Impact Assessments which should have been conducted, revised and possibly contested by villagers have not yet been conducted despite project operations moving forward. Cameroon’s constitution states that international law holds primacy over national law - thus, human rights afforded to indigenous communities faced with displacement and dispossession from land and resources necessary for survival are violated by BioPalm concessions. Bagyeli community members have mobilized by writing letters and issuing statements denouncing the project and citing their imminent loss of livelihood and identity due to the destruction of the forest, should operations continue to expand as planned . Letters were sent to the President of the Republic of Cameroon in 2012 immediately following the announcement of operations, composed with the consensus of approximately eighty members of Bagyeli, Bokoko and Bassa communities .