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BioPalm plantation and Bagyéli community, Cameroon


Description:

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].

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 [1]. 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 [1].

Basic Data

Name of conflict:BioPalm plantation and Bagyéli community, Cameroon
Country:Cameroon
State or province:South Province
(municipality or city/town)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 :Land acquisition conflicts
Deforestation
Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
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 - http://www.forestpeoples.org/

Okani - https://rsr.akvo.org/en/organisation/2920/

Conflict and 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
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Bagyéli communities
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Official complaint letters and petitions
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment

Impacts of the project

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

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Criminalization of activists
Migration/displacement
Repression
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 and Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

[5] Free and Informed Prior Consent
http://www.fao.org/3/a-i6190e.pdf

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.
http://www.forestpeoples.org/sites/fpp/files/publication/2013/11/conflict-or-consentenglishlowres.pdf

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[4] BioPalm plantation will lead to destruction of Bagyeli communities in Cameroon
http://www.forestpeoples.org/topics/palm-oil-rspo/news/2011/10/biopalm-plantation-will-lead-destruction-bagyeli-communities-camer

Africa: New land grabs exposed. Asian palm oil companies run into trouble
http://www.minorityvoices.org/news.php/en/1292/africa-new-land-grabs-exposed.-asian-palm-oil-companies-run-into-trouble

[2] Biopalm Energy Limited: Company Overview
https://www.bloomberg.com/research/stocks/private/snapshot.asp?privcapId=112955743

[3] SIVA group: Quick Facts
http://www.sivagroup.in/about-us/qucikfacts.aspx

Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil: About Us
http://www.rspo.org/about

Other documents

Forest communities in Cameroon Photo source: http://www.environewsnigeria.com/biopalm-cameroon-communities-left-dark/
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Cameroon_Families.png

Memeber of Okani NGO with concrete marker in Bagyeli territory, 2011 Photo source: Emmanuel Freudenthal via Forest Peoples Programme report "Conflict or Consent" (2013)
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/FPP_Emmanuel_Freudenthal_.png

Community Meeting Photo source: Forest Peoples Programme report "Conflict or Consent" (2013)
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Community_Meeting_Cameroon.png

Meta information

Contributor:Sophia Rokhlin, ICTA-UAB
Last update26/05/2017

Images

 

Forest communities in Cameroon

Photo source: http://www.environewsnigeria.com/biopalm-cameroon-communities-left-dark/

Memeber of Okani NGO with concrete marker in Bagyeli territory, 2011

Photo source: Emmanuel Freudenthal via Forest Peoples Programme report "Conflict or Consent" (2013)

Community Meeting

Photo source: Forest Peoples Programme report "Conflict or Consent" (2013)