Via its subsidiary Sustainable Oil Cameroon, the US American group Herakles Capital wants to clear-cut wide areas of rain forest in Cameroon and establish new plantations there, reported the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) mid April 2012. The area covers 80,000 hectares of forest in Central Africa near the Korup National Park.
WWF assesses the area as worthy of conservation. A High Conservation Value (HCV) assessment ordered by Herakles for the scheduled plantation arrives at an opposite conclusion, says WWF. This HCV assessment rates almost the entire concession area as „degraded“ and only three per cent worthy of conservation (i.e. HCV areas). Using satellite images, WWF then identified that at least half of the concession area is largely intact forest, serving as a major ecological buffer zone and corridor for the surrounding protected areas, and as the livelihood basis for the local population. In order to obtain more secure information about the situation on site, WWF has submitted the Herakles environmental assessment to the HCV network experts for a peer review to be carried out and has also commissioned a comprehensive study by independent scientists. The process is still underway.
WWF reports that the local communities in the affected area did not receive any information nor was their approval obtained for the project. The WWF is in possession of 20 official letters of complaint from villages, parliamentarians and mayors of the region who oppose the development of the plantation. The livelihoods of the people in the region depend on the resources offered by these forests and the majority oppose the palm-oil concession. Some communities have filed legal charges against the company.
Moreover, WWF criticises that the forest clearing is to be driven forward under guise of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). WWF is itself an RSPO member and has lodged a formal complaint that can lead to the expulsion of the company.
Clear-cutting in the area has already begun. In 2011, 8 hectares were cleared to make place for a palm-tree nursery. Part of this area is situated in the middle of the small zone that Herakles itself identified as HVC, meaning that it has been established exactly where clear-cutting is not allowed, reports the WWF. The environmental organisation criticises that while the companies involved emphasise that the plantation is to be developed in a sustainable manner, simultaneously, they ignore the RSPO guidelines.
WWF announced that together with the local communities and other organisations it will act to halt the establishment of a plantation in this species-rich forest and seek alternative, more environmentally friendly uses for this valuable area.