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Rubber tree plantation and latex factory near Dja Reserve, by Sudcam Hévéa S.A., Cameroon


Description:

The contentious plantation, by Sud-Cameroun Hévéa S.A (hereafter Sudcam) involves the conversion of about 45.000 hectares of natural forest into rubber plantation. The concession is just a few hundred meters away from the western border of the World Heritage Conservation site of the Dja Reserve. Created in 1950, the faunal reserve was declared World Heritage by the UNESCO in 1987due to its exceptionally rich biodiversity. The project could affect endangered species such as chimpanzees, forest elephants, western lowland gorillas, and a nearly extinct leopard species. According to a 2018 article by Global Forest Watch, this is one of the forest regions at risk right now [1]. Only from November 2017 to March 2018, they have found that 1.000 new hectares of tree cover were affected. According to Greenpeace, the Sudcam plantation is “the most devastating new clearing of forest for industrial agriculture in the Congo Basin” [2]. Besides, there is a conflict with the population about the property of the land, as many people don’t have formal titles of property and rely on the customary access rules for their subsistence farming. In this area live about 9.500 people, most of them belonging to the Bulu tribe, (Bantu group), but there are also people belonging to the indigenous Baka Tribe. The latter are traditionally hunters in the forests, so they are particularly impacted by the change of land use. On the other hand, residents have claimed that subsistence farmland has been taken away from them without any (or very little) compensation. According to a Greenpeace Africa forest expert, Sylvie Djacbou, talking to Mongabay, the Baka are also suffering the destruction of graves and sacred sites which were very important for them. The organization Rainforest led a community mapping action in the area, which “has shown widespread dispossession of community lands and resources, including those of indigenous Baka people”, a specially protected community [3]. Besides, communities claim that “there has been wholly inadequate compensation, provisions to protect their livelihood, and no benefits from the plantations”. The legitimacy of this plantation is very doubtable, since there is no transparency on how they got the authorization to exploit that land. In fact, key information about the project, such as all the limits of the concession, the land rent, information about the owner, the actual investment made so far, are not made public. By the end of 2015, the UNESCO failed to inscribe the Dja Reserve on the List of World Heritage in Danger and highlight the threat that Sudcam represents for the ecosystem of the region. Overall, due to widespread corruption, an autocratic political regime, constant involvement of the ex-colonial power and little transparency, it is extremely difficult for people in Cameroon to obtain recognition of their rights.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Rubber tree plantation and latex factory near Dja Reserve, by Sudcam Hévéa S.A., Cameroon
Country:Cameroon
State or province:Départament Dja-et-lobo, South West Region
(municipality or city/town)Ndibision
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 :Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Land acquisition conflicts
Deforestation
Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Logging and non timber extraction
Specific commodities:Rubber

Project Details and Actors

Project details:

The land concession approved by presidential decree in 2008 granted to Sud-Cameroun Hévéa S.A (hereafter Sudcam) about 45.000 hectares in total [4]. The concession has been divided between various uses: 30.000 hectares for the rubber plantation, 500 for nurseries and 375 for worker’s camps. About 9.000 hectares of the concession are deemed to be unsuitable for plantations, so they are used for conservation. There are concerns that Sudcam might be working also out of the concession, although this point is not yet clear. Sudcam is a joint-venture between the Société de développement de caoutchouc camerounais S.A (hereafeter SDCC) and the Cameroonian company the Société de production de Palmeraies et d'Hévéa S.A (SPPH). SDCC is a subsidiary of Cameroon Holdings Pte. Ltd, itself also a subsidiary of GMG Holdings Ltd. The company said to be committed to also build social infrastructures in the area (schools, health centers, accommodations, etc.), rehabilitating the existing village plantations and promoting the creation of new ones as well. The heralded aim of the project was to stimulate the economy of the country by increasing the production of rubber and creating jobs. However, since 2011, the installation of the plantation has locally meant a massive forest clearance, (the most important in the Congo River Basin), and it has triggered a lot of social discontent among the local populations. The forecast is that the entire 45.000 hectares would be planted by 2029, and the company has already announced its intention of building a factory to transform the rubber into latex [5].

Project area:45,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:9,500
Start of the conflict:01/07/2008
Company names or state enterprises:Sud-Cameroun Hévéa S.A (Sudcam) from Cameroon
Halcyon Agri Corporation from China
Hevea Cameroun S.A (HEVECAM) from Cameroon
GMG Global Ltd (GMG) (GMG Global Ltd (GMG)) from Singapore
Cameroon Holdings Pte. Ltd. from Singapore
Relevant government actors:There has been a lack of transparence in the whole process. According to an investigacion led by CIFOR, 20€ of Sudcam’s shares were owned by an unknown “influential member of the Cameroonian political elite.”
International and Finance InstitutionsChina-Africa Development Fund (CAD FUND) from China
UNESCO - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) from France
International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN )
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:- Greenpeace Africa: http://www.greenpeace.org/africa/en/

- Africa Wildlife Foundation https://www.awf.org/

- Earthsight: https://www.earthsight.org.uk/coming-storm

-Rainforest Foundation UK

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
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Negotiated alternative solution
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
A new environmental study by Sudcam
Development of alternatives:There are different proposal to mitigate the negative impacts of the project. The Africa Wildlife Foundation talks about the possibility of developing wildlife corridors between plantation blocks, and creating buffers around wetlands and streams.

Greenpeace Africa has urged the Cameronian government to stop the contract with SudCam and has publicly denounced to the UNESCO for not protecting the Dja Reserve. They ask for more transparency and, specially, that the company does the Free, Prior and informed consent process in a proper way. The NGO has at least asked for the suspension of the activities until there is: a complete transparency about the land acquisition; reparation for the damages on populations; and a participative management decision making process involving the local inhabitants.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:There hasn´t been any sign of change from the company nor the Government since 2008, despite the petitions from different organizations to halt the project. The local inhabitants still don't have any information about the land acquisition of Sudcam since the procedure hasn't been respected. The project is imposed to them, with all the consequences it will bring and already did on both the environment and their lifestyle. Moreover, although Greenpeace (2016) requested the government to suspend the project until it complies with a transparent and reliable procedure to ensure free, informed and prior informed consent of local communities, the State doesn't care.

Sources and Materials

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

Etude d'impact environnemental du projet de création d'une plantation agroindustrielle d'hevea dans le Dja et Lobo, Region du Sud. Greenpeace
http://www.greenpeace.org/africa/Global/africa/Forests/Publications/2-Sudcam%E2%80%99s%20Environmental%20Impact%20Assessment.pdf

"Socioecological responsibility and Chinese overseas investments: The case of rubber plantation expansion in Cameroon". Assembe-Mvondo, S.; Putzel, L.; Atyi, R.E.
http://www.cifor.org/library/5474/socioecological-responsibility-and-chinese-overseas-investments-the-case-of-rubber-plantation-expansion-in-cameroon/

L'UNESCO échoue à protéger la Réserve du Dja au Cameroun de multiples menaces, y compris la plantation d’hévéa Sudcam, Aout 2016
http://www.greenpeace.org/africa/fr/Actualities/actualites/LUNESCO-echoue-a-proteger-la-Reserve-du-Dja-au-Cameroun-de-multiples-menaces-y-compris-la-plantation-dhevea-Sudcam/

UNESCO report of mission in the Dja Reserve, 2015
http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/407/documents/

"Etude d'impact environnemental du projet de création d'une plantation agroindustrielle d'hévéa dans le Dja et Lobo, Région du Sud" environmental study by Sud Cameroun Hévéa S.A.
http://m.greenpeace.org/africa/Global/africa/Forests/Publications/2-Sudcam%E2%80%99s%20Environmental%20Impact%20Assessment.pdf

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

"Rubber plantation in Camerron edges closer to UNESCO World Heritage Site".- Mongabay
https://news.mongabay.com/2018/04/rubber-plantation-in-cameroon-edges-closer-to-unesco-world-heritage-site/

[2] UNESCO fails to protec Cameroon's Dja Reserve from multiple threats including the Sudcam Rummber Plantation.
http://www.greenpeace.org/africa/en/News/news/UNESCO-fails-to-protect-Cameroons-Dja-Reserve-from-multiple-threats-including-the-Sudcam-rubber-plantation/#Note7

[1] Places to watch: 3 regions of forest at risk right now
https://blog.globalforestwatch.org/places-to-watch/places-to-watch-march-2018

[3]The impacts of agri-business in Cameroon laid bare
http://blog.mappingforrights.org/?p=1359

[5] La société Sud Hevea veut construire une usine de transformation de caoutchouc. Cameroun-info.net
http://www.cameroon-info.net/article/cameroun-developpement-la-societe-sud-hevea-cameroun-veut-construire-une-usine-de-transformation-de-caoutchouc-312561.html

Conservation watch, 28.06.2016, "En péril : la réserve du Dja au Cameroun et la crédibilité du système du Patrimoine mondial de l’UNESCO"
http://www.conservation-watch.org/fr/2016/08/26/under-threat-cameroons-dja-reserve-and-the-credibility-of-the-unesco-world-heritage-system

Journal du Cameroun, 07.07.2017, "Philip Ngolé Ngwese dément les accusations de Greenpeace sur la déforestation dans la réserve du Dja"
https://www.journalducameroun.com/philip-ngole-ngwese-dement-accusations-de-greenpeace-deforestation-de-reserve-dja/

Greenpeace Africa, 23.08.2016, "L'UNESCO échoue à protéger la Réserve du Dja au Cameroun de multiples menaces, y compris la plantation d’hévéa Sudcam
http://www.greenpeace.org/africa/fr/Actualities/actualites/LUNESCO-echoue-a-proteger-la-Reserve-du-Dja-au-Cameroun-de-multiples-menaces-y-compris-la-plantation-dhevea-Sudcam/

Other documents

Dja World Site Heritage This area , declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978, is exceptionally rich in biodiversity. Now, it is at risk for various questions,being one of them the Hévea Sudcam Rubber plantation. Source: Wikipe
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/reserve_du_Dja.JPG

Affected area for the Rubber plantation In this image it's possible to see how near the plantation is to the western border of the Dja Reserve. Source: Greenpeace
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/0406-dja-glad-greepeace-map.png

Hevea Plantation
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Sudcam.jpg

Meta information

Contributor:Aurora M. Alcojor, Carro de Combate and Gabriel Weber
Last update20/02/2019

Images

 

Dja World Site Heritage

This area , declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978, is exceptionally rich in biodiversity. Now, it is at risk for various questions,being one of them the Hévea Sudcam Rubber plantation. Source: Wikipe

Affected area for the Rubber plantation

In this image it's possible to see how near the plantation is to the western border of the Dja Reserve. Source: Greenpeace

Hevea Plantation