Thursday, June 19, 2014


In Cameroon, Herakles Farms, a US company, has been chopping down miles of dense forest. Last February, according to Greenpeace,  Herakles began clear-cutting trees with an illegal permit in hand. The permit also allowed the illicit timber to be sold on international markets. And this is all happening with the complicity of the Cameroonian Ministry of Forests and the full knowledge of the European Union (EU). 

Local activists have succeeded at times in their fight against Herakles.  They have reduced the amount of land Herakles can legally steal.  However, Herakles Farms is still  engaged in the development of a controversial oil palm plantation in the South-West Region of Cameroon that faces strong opposition from affected communities.   The company's so-called sustainable project will destroy the ecosystem of tens of thousands hectares of ancient rainforest and replace it with monoculture oil palm plantations. 

The company isn't stupid.  According to activists they have tried to use rice and fish to bribe and seduce the indigenous people of Mundemba, Toko and Nguti sub-divisions in the Southwest Region of Cameroon in order to grab their ancestral lands for 99 years.  An open letter from one environmental activist, Andrew M. Edimo, Chairperson Natural Resources and Development Committee Oroko Cultural Association,to Bruce Wrobel, CEO, of Herakles Farms states:

Africans do not need handouts.  Handouts have not worked in the past and will not work today. How long will the tens of thousands of people dislocated, dehumanized and enslaved by your so-called sustainable development project live off your 11 tons of rice and 10 tons of fish?  Are they going to be eating the rice and fish for 99 years as they will have no land to farm after you have seized and destroyed their only treasure and hope for a livelihood...

You have forgotten to tell the world that you are the CEO of a venture capital company that invests in places where the overhead expenditures are low and your profit margin is high. A country like Uganda where large quantities of crude oil have been discovered and many companies are rushing in is certainly a profitable destination for you to generate and sell electricity to those who will be investing in crude oil as well as the locals, making millions of dollars annually and paying little or nothing to the indigenous people of the area. the convention your company signed with the Government of the Republic of Cameroon, your company has been given the absolute rights to logging, water and clay and if any mineral is discovered in the concession area, be it oil, gold, diamond, and so on, the government of Cameroon will only be able to explore and exploit it with your approval.  After all, that very government also gave you the right not to allow any indigenous person to trespass in the concession area as well as the right to arrest and persecute trespassers....

...We know you and your company are above all laws in Cameroon, that is  why an  injunction order was issued by  a court in Mundemba  instructing your operations in Ndian division to stop  until an agreement is reached with regards the  future of the livelihood of  the people whose land you want to acquire and you defiled the injunction. Instead you worked through your Cameroonian surrogates to make sure the judge who had passed the judgment was transferred. In America, not even the President can disrespect a court judgment, but in Cameroon an American company disrespects the laws of the land without any consequences...

Reading through the website of Herakles Farms, I discovered that you are telling the world how you are helping to develop the continent of Africa by building hydroelectric power stations in Uganda, bringing internet cables to the continent of Africa, establishing palm plantations in Ghana and grabbing land in Cameroon. I learned, too, that your NGO, All For Africa, has a program, Palm oil Out of Poverty (POP). I think the acronym P.O.P. should stand for Palm oil On to Poverty because razing the forest for your proposed plantation and employing just 7000 – 8000 out of the 58,000 people who depend on that forest for their livelihoods, food, medicine and wood for fuel and building, will lead to increased poverty and early deaths.

As per your own projections, you will be investing about seven hundred million dollars in your Cameroon palm oil project and will make an annual profit of seventy million ...

As such you will pay off the project in 10 years and for 89 years remaining; your children’s generation and the generation after them will make seventy million dollars yearly, while generation after generation of the 58,000 indigenous people whose land you’ve grabbed will continue to live in abject poverty...

You are dealing with a new generation of Africans who always question what they hear or see and have no reason to believe that others know best. We are able to gather and share information on what your company says and does. We are not fooled by gifts of fish and rice. We are fully capable of deciding for ourselves what sort of development we want for our region .....

Greenpeace research has revealed recently that Herakles Farms, using a front company, colluded with Cameroon's Minister of Forests to unlawfully obtain a logging permit allowing it to clear cut 2,500 hectares of forest and export valuable species of timber, while paying 17 times fewer royalties to local communities than average.   "This was a deliberate attempt to hide an illegal decision taken in favor of Herakles Farms" explained Irene Wabiwa, Head of Greenpeace Africa's Forest Campaign.  A Greenpeace press release says, 

It appears the Cameroonian authorities and Herakles Farms are collaborating to make illegal logging happen at the expense of Cameroon's treasury, the Nguti local council and local communities which are supposed to receive a forestry royalty. The illegal granting of Uniprovince's logging permit without an auction will cost the government: Uniprovince will pay 17 times less tax than the average paid by logging companies with similar permits in 2014. Yet, Herakles farms will exploit greater volumes of timber than other companies since it will raze the forest to make way for its palm plantation.

According to Irene Wabiwa, "Contrary to the declarations made by Herakles Farms, the company has no intention to develop Cameroon. In reality, Cameroon is losing enormous revenue because of the illegalities and corruption surrounding the company's activities."

By signing the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Union, Cameroon committed to fight illegal logging and illicit commerce of timber. Despite efforts made by the two parties to implement the VPA, the granting of Uniprovince's illegal permit calls into question Cameroon's will to respect the agreement and the credibility of the initiative as a whole.

Activists have faced repressive measures, arrests, and intimidation from the government, from the State, from Global Capital.

International agreements between states and the like are not going to stop global capital from exploiting indigenous people and others or wreaking havoc on the Earth.  NGOS and nation states aren't going to do that either.  There is only one entity on the planet that can in the end defeat global capital, and that is the multitude itself, the working people, the peasants, the indigenous.  The battle in the Cameroon is only one small part of a large war...a war that WE cannot afford to lose.

The following is from

Land grabber's paradise: Cameroonian environmentalist faces trial, while charges against his attackers mysteriously "disappear"

GRAIN | Oakland Institute | World Rainforest Movement

Press release
18 June 2014

Arrested, assaulted and then charged with libel: this is just some of what land and environmental activist Nasako Besingi has faced while helping communities from the southwest region of Cameroon stop US company Herakles Farms (HF) from grabbing their lands for the development of a 20,000 hectare palm oil plantation.  

On June 19, 2014, Besingi and four other opponents of the HF project will be in court, accused by the government of “participating in the organisation and holding of an undeclared public meeting”. The five were arrested and charged while distributing t-shirts critical of Herakles Farms in November 2012.

Nasako Besingi was travelling to a village to talk about Herakles' plans when he was ambushed by a group of men. (Screenshot: France24)
Besingi will face separate charges of defamation on June 24, brought against him by the US firm. Herakles Farms alleges that Besingi published "false news via the internet” when he sent out a private email detailing how he was ambushed in August 2012 by four men employed by Herakles as he was travelling on motorbike to a community affected by the company's plantations.

Besingi filed a complaint against his assailants after the incident. But the public prosecutor, who is pursuing the two cases against Besingi, has yet to bring charges against the four men who attacked him. Besingi was recently told by the state council of the legal department, Ndian Division, that the file had "disappeared".

"The Government of Cameroon is sending a message that the lands of its people are up for sale to foreign companies while anyone who resists will be punished," says Ange David Baimey of GRAIN.
Both court cases have been adjourned multiple times, causing enormous stress on Besingi and the other activists and their families, and adding to the cost of legal fees.

"Despite its initial plans of taking over 73,000 ha of the world’s second largest rainforest for its oil palm plantation having been reduced to some 20,000 ha, Herakles faces strong opposition on the ground. Resorting to intimidating local activists through frivolous law suits adds to their long list of wrongdoings such as illegal logging, corruption, and other questionable tactics used by the New York-based firm to make the project look sustainable and beneficial to Cameroon," says Frédéric Mousseau of the Oakland Institute.

"Herakles and the Government of Cameroon are hoping that people will tire of hearing about their intimidation of activists and communities," says Besingi. "International attention on this company and the government's attacks against its people is badly needed. Now."

GRAIN, the Oakland Institute and the World Rainforest Movement call on Herakles and the Cameroonian government to stop all forms of intimidation against critics of the Herakles Farms land deal and drop all charges against Nasako Besingi and his fellow activists. The government and the company should instead bring those who violently attacked Besingi and his fellow activists to court and engage in good faith with local communities seeking to defend their lands.
Both court cases will take place at the Court of First Instance, Mundemba, Ndian Division.


Nasako Besingi, Struggle to Economize Future Environment (SEFE)
Frederic Mousseau, Oakland Institute (FR, EN)
+1510 512 5458
- See more at:

No comments: