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Eni Company's 'Food Plus Biodiesel' Palm Oil project in Niari, Congo


Eni is a giant Italian energy company of which 30% of shares are owned by the Italian Government. The company conducted a feasibility study in 2007 for their 'Food and Biofuel' project to grow palm oil in Mbe and Kibangou, Congo.

In May of 2008 Eni signed an MOU with the Government of the Republic of the Congo for an oil-palm plantation project on 'previously unfarmed' land. Eni was responsible for providing technical consultation on agricultural and infrastructural elements, as well as financial support. Their subsidiary Saipem recorded research and development activity on the project up to 2011 and according to ENI company shareholder meeting minutes the project was still in pilot project phase at this point. A study done at the same time discovered virtually no local public knowledge of the projects. In cooperation with the Congo Government Eni is also implementing tar sands oil extraction, an electric power station, and social projects. According to Congolese human rights organisations and their international partners, Enis plans in the Congo Basin risk irreversible damage to biodiversity, local communities and our climate, and break the company´s own guidelines.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Eni Company's 'Food Plus Biodiesel' Palm Oil project in Niari, Congo
Country:Congo, Rep.
State or province:Niari (Kibangou) Pool (Mbe)
Location of conflict:Kibangou & Mbe
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local 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
Agro-fuels and biomass energy plants
Specific commodities:Palm oil

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The project (as proposed) was to produce 340 thousand tons/year of crude palm oil and 250,000 tons/year of biodiesel from 70,000 ha and employ 10,000 people. If favorable after the initial 4 -year feasibility study phase (ending in 2011), the option of building a bio-refinery was open to the company. The stated intention of the project is ambiguous, with some company sources citing 'food oil' as the first priority and others listing 75% of production to go towards biodiesel production for export. Eni´s tar sands exploration is taking place over a huge 1,790 KM2 area.

Project area:70,000
Level of Investment:350 million – 3 Billion for all three projects
Type of populationRural
Company names or state enterprises:Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi (Eni) from Italy
Saipem from Italy
Relevant government actors:Congolese Ministry of Agriculture
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Justice and Peace Commission, Pointe-Noire, Campaign for the Reform of the World Bank,, Banktrack:, Cultural Foundation of Ethical Responsibility, Email: [email protected], Heinrich Boll Foundation,

Conflict & Mobilization

Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
International NGOs
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Shareholder/financial activism.


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusUnknown
Development of alternatives:Institute a moratorium on any further investment in tar sands development and industrial-scale agro-fuels production, include local community in dialogue (make FPIC a condition of all project investment), report to shareholders and the general public on how investments are contributing to the Italian government’s commitments to support reduction of GHG emissions, implement all recommendations made by Amnesty International
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Details are unclear but the project appears to be moving forward

Sources & Materials

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

Heinrich Boll Foundation, 2009, 'Energy Futures? Eni's Investments in Tar Sands and Palm Oil in the Congo Basin'

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Eni's Activities on GoogleMaps -

Eni, 'Minutes of the Ordinary Shareholders' Meeting'

, 'ENI's New Energy Projects Threaten Congo Rainforest'

Link to Saipem's Shareholders' Meeting Notes -

The Global Biofuel Information Tool

Eni, 'Eni and the Republic of Congo Launch a New Integrated Model of Cooperation'

Other comments:This project is shrouded in media silence and inconsistencies. ENI states the project to be in two municipalities in Congo-Brazzaville, one in the south-east and the other in the south-west, but refers to the site in the northwest of the country. Also, the company states the project will result in 10,000 jobs, which requires proximity to townships, but denies relocation of people or land appropriation. These statements are contradictory. Both ENI and Saipem shareholder meeting notes cease to refer to the project after 2011.

Meta information

Contributor:Aliza Tuttle
Last update24/06/2014