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Palm oil plantation in South-West Cameroon


A US-based agricultural company Herakles Farms, through its subsidiary SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon Ltd (SGSOC), is developing a 73 000 hectare palm oil plantation under a 99-year land lease, despite clear community opposition, 2 court injunctions and an absence of government authorization. Local communities and environmental organizations have warned that the project will cause massive deforestation in a biodiversity hotspot and loss of livelihoods of indigenous communities.

Communities in Fabe, Massaka-Bima, Mbile, and Mundemba sent complaint letters and petitions against the project to the government, the latter which authorized the company to use a private security force to evict people from the project area.

In April 2012, eleven of the worlds top scientists issued an open letter urging the Cameroonian government to stop the project. In June 2012, villagers from Fabe and Toko organized a protest against the project and in response faced intimidation and arrest by police.

(On November 14, 2012 Nasako Besingi the director of the local NGO Struggle to Economize Future Environment (SEFE), an organization campaigning peacefully against the Herakles Farms project, was arrested with three colleagues and detained without charge.)

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Palm oil plantation in South-West Cameroon
State or province:South West Cameroon
Location of conflict:Ndian, Kup-Manengouba, and Manyu divisions
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 :Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Land acquisition conflicts
Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Specific commodities:
Palm oil
Carbon offsets

Project Details and Actors

Project details:

The project will take place over 73,100 ha of land, with 750 million dollars expected in revenue. The company is paying $0.50 to $1 per hectare per year and has a 99 year land lease. This plantation will have major impacts on up to 45,000 Indigenous Peoples in 88 villages who are dependent on the forest for their livelihoods. The plantation will also fragment and isolate the regions protected areas, including Korup National Park, Bakossi National Park, Banyang Mbo Wildlife Sanctuary, Nta Ali Forest Reserve, and Rumpi Hills Forest Reserve.

Project area:73086
Level of Investment:750 million dollars expected in revenue
Type of populationRural
Company names or state enterprises:SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon Ltd from Cameroon
Herakles Farms/Herakles Capital from United States of America
Blackstone Group
All for Africa - Us based NGO set up by entrepreneurs -
Relevant government actors:Government of Cameroon, Cameroonian Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, Governor of the South-West region, Chief of Fabe and other villages
International and Finance InstitutionsAfrican Development Bank (AfDB)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Struggle to Economize Future Environment (SEFE), Oakland Institute,, Greenpeace,, Centre for Enviromment and Development (CED),, Reseach de Lutte Contre La Faim (RELUFA), Save Wildlife Foundation,

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Specific impacts on women


Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Development of alternatives:-Oakland Institute calls for a moratorium on the allocation of new agro-industrial concessions that recognizes existing land rights and customary land rights.
-Support small-scale production of palm oil by smallholders with improved access to markets for production outputs.
-Ensure that palm tress are combined with other crops and trees for agricultural diversification
-Protect natural forests and avoid converting forested lands into plantations
-SEFE calls for a new agreement that takes into consideration the sustainable management of the forest
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Herakles has been violating Cameroonian law since 2009, without receiving the presidential decree required for its project. It also ignored 2 court injunctions against its project. Evidence collected by Greenpeace reveals that large areas of forest land have already been clear cut by the company, despite ongoing community mobilization and opposition.
When an ESIA was carried out in 2012, it was found that the company had already destroyed 14.5 million trees of different species. The governments Rural Sector Development plan calls for palm oil production to triple to 45 000 tonnes annually by 2020.

Sources and Materials

Related laws and legislationsĀ - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)

Establishment Convention By and Between the Republic of Cameroon and SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon PLC. Section 9.5 (a, b, c).

Presidential decree

UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

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

Greenpeace. Forest Clearing. Cameroon. Photo Essay:

The Oakland Institute. Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa. Land Deal Brief, September 2012.

CED, 'HERAKLES 13TH LABOUR? A Study of SGSOCs Land Concession in South-West Cameroon':

LinksĀ to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites



IPS (Sept 2012):

Cultural Survival

Greenpeace International




Greenpeace International

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

The Oakland Institute and the Centre for Environment and Development. The Heracles Debacle. September 2012.

Meta information

Contributor:Zahra Moloo
Last update08/04/2014