«Report Fact finding mission on Herakles Farms (SGSOC) oil palm plantation project, February Report compiled for PSMNR by: Dr. Julien Dupuy/GFA Forest ...»
Fact finding mission on Herakles Farms (SGSOC) oil palm plantation project, February
Report compiled for PSMNR by:
Dr. Julien Dupuy/GFA Forest and Wildlife expert
Mor Achankap Bakia/RD MINFOF GIS expert
1. Context and justification:
Herakles Farms (SGSOC) is actively negotiating as much land as possible with local
communities which are not prepared or neither informed on what they are getting into.
SGSOC project compete directly with the livelihood of the local population and the loss of opportunities offered by forest resources can’t be compensated by few precarious employments in the plantation. The proposed concession area is occupied by about 56 villages with a population of about 16.000. Furthermore Herakles Farms (SGSOC) oil palm plantation project is located within an ecologically vital area, one of the largest surviving tracts of lowland forest in the Gulf of Guinea. Its development would fragment the regional landscape and completely isolate the surrounding protected areas. Besides Herakles Farms (SGSOC) is not respecting anymore the initial proposed concession boundary and negotiate land in areas which are not covered by their ESIA (Mosongiseli and Ngumu blocks/11’000 ha). Communities are clearly pushed to cede as much as possible land to the company without taking into account their own needs.
Herakles Farms (SGSOC) oil palm plantation project as it is planned so far will have considerable negative impact on peoples’ livelihood of Ndian and Kupe-Manenguba Divisions and will result in several land use conflicts. PSMNR under result 1 is supporting the Technical Operation Units (TOUs) which have mandate from the Prime Minister to mitigate land use conflicts which are concerning forestry conservation and community development. Besides supporting the management of Korup NP and BayangMbo Wildlife sanctuary, PSMNR is intervening in two council forests and several community forests adjacent to the Herakles Farms (SGSOC) proposed project area. It is in this perspective that a fact finding mission was organized to document the situation and propose a conflict management strategy.
2. Objectives of the mission:
The mission objectives were to assess Herakles Farms (SGSOC) interventions on the ground (Sambaliba operation site, Talangaye exploitation block, Fabe nursery…) and evaluate how far villagers went into negotiation with SGSOC and in which form of agreements. The mission was also intending to reinforce communities’ negotiation capacities and create awareness on alternative development scenarios (small holder schemes, NTFP, community forests, REDD….).
The information collected during the mission shall enable PSMNR through its result 1 to define a strategy to improve conservation issues in the area and at the same time promote alternative development scenarios. PSMNR intends based on the finding of this mission to request for additional funding under result 1 (TOU) of PSMNR-SWR to fully implement the proposed strategy. The proposal for additional funding will be discussed during the next bilateral discussions.
3. Methodology adopted The fact find mission has been conducted in Kupe-Manenguba and Ndian divisions during the second half of February. The team was composed of the GIS officer of MINFOF SW Regional Delegation and GFA/Forest and Wildlife Expert (FEW). The team was accompanied in Ndian Division by the KN TOU assistant conservator and GFA National Forest Expert (NFE). The mission was initially designed to sample communities’ opinion on Herakles Farms (SGSOC) project with selected representative panel of villages. Since Herakles Farms (SGSOC) was already very actively negotiating land, the team decided to visit each and every village1(see villages visited in Annex 1) to provide advises on the negotiation process. The team has opted to engage in an open discussion with some community representatives in small groups comprising of at least one member of the traditional council and if possible youth and women representatives. The team explained that PSMNR wasn’t against Herakles Farms (SGSOC) project but wanted to ensure that the community was fully aware of what they were negotiating.
1Fact finding mission is still ongoing with remaining villages These sessions were organized to enable communities to reflect and take a better informed decision towards the Herakles Farms (SGSOC) project and better negotiate with the company.
For those who have already entered into the negotiation process, the team provided recommendations on what bases to re-negotiate the agreement which can better contribute to their development and to the conservation of their natural and social environment. With the aid of maps the communities were advised to set aside sufficient land for future community development and avoid conflict with neighboring communities. Terms of agreements contained in the MoUs signed between Herakles Farms (SGSOC) and the villagers were reviewed with the communities during which they were advised to negotiate meaningful development support from the company, in particular the inclusion of small holder schemes.
The team has offered PSMNR technical support to realize alternative land use planning and review their agreements.
4. Findings from the mission:
4.1 Herakles Farms (SGSOC) operations:
In Nguti Sub-Division, Herakles Farms (SGSOC) is currently opening the first 2500 ha plantation block negotiated with Talangaye, Ekita, Ebanga and Manyamen. About 600ha of this first block already falls outside Herakles Farms (SGSOC) proposed concession limit covered by their Environmental Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) (see annex 2, map 1).
Neighboring villages such as Badun and New Konye were never consulted nor associated to the negotiations whereas apparently the first block overlaps with their traditional land. It is worth noticing that these two villages are against Herakles Farms (SGSOC). The situation is clearly a source of potential conflicts among the communities concerned.
The result of the inventory recently conducted by SW MINFOF clearly shows that this first plantation block is being established within a rich secondary productive forest. 57 000 m3 of exploitable timber were inventoried within the 2500ha block which is comparable to the volume that could be found in any other Forest Management Unit (FMU) exploited in South West Region. Based on our field observations Herakles Farms (SGSOC) has open around 300ha which is far above the 60ha tolerated by the law if no presidential land lease decree has been signed. Herakles Farms (SGSOC) has already planted a portion of the land and piles of timber are waiting to be auctioned (see also annex 3, picture 1).
Picture 1: Talangaye concession block Herakles Farms (SGSOC) has also opened a 50 meters wide road between Talangaye and Sambaliba whereas they had received an authorization for 15 meters (see annex 3, picture 2).
An inventory has been conducted by SW MINFOF for the planned nursery site in Sambaliba.
This inventory has identified even more exploitable timber than in the first block with 11 000 m3 inventoried on 225 ha.
Fabe nursery has been opened in an area of less than 10 ha although 45ha was allocated for the nursery. The team was denied access to the nursery site despite explanations from the forestry officials. Nevertheless, the MINFOF staff of the team made their way into the nursery. The seedlings in the Fabe nursery are ready for transplanting, which means the company is targeting the Ngumu-Mosongisele area. It is worth noting here that most of the timber evacuated from the Fabe nursery site was used by the company or allowed to decompose. Some serious evidence of illegal timber exploitation has been noticed close to Fabe village with tracks opened by a caterpillar (see annex 3, picture 3 /GPS reading: 495697, 559880). There are also very active lands clearing in the area with huge portion of land opened with chainsaws (GPS reading: 495297, 560030). This may be a sign of land speculation starting in the area.
speculation around Fabe Herakles Farms (SGSOC) is not respecting anymore the initial proposed concession boundary and negotiates land far outside the so called “Kupe and Ndian blocks” in areas which are not covered by their ESIA (see annex 2, map 2). Herakles Farms (SGSOC) is also currently negotiating huge amount of land completely outside their planned concession around the villages of Mosongisele, Weke, Idibanyanga and Ngumu. A total of 11’000ha has been negotiated with these villages located just at the periphery of the Korup National Park.
4.2 Herakles Farms (SGSOC) land “negotiations” in Kupe Muanenguba Division:
Herakles Farms (SGSOC) is currently actively negotiating land in Kupe Muaneguba, with the Upper Balong,Bassosi and Bakossi communities. Herakles Farms (SGSOC) has entered into formal negotiations and signed MoUs with Talangaye, Ekita, Sikam, Sambaliba, Manyamen and Ebanga villages. The other neighboring villages of Betock, Badun, New Konye, Mungo Ndor, Bombe Konye and Ntale have so far adamantly refused to enter into any negotiation for land with Herakles Farms (SGSOC). Most of these villages claim that they have no land to concede to Herakles Farms (SGSOC). They have their own vision for the development of their community and want to keep some land aside for other uses or future opportunities. These villages are located along or close to the Kumba-Mamfe road axe which is a road of economic importance and is planned to be tarred as from this year.
Herakles Farms (SGSOC) has negotiated and signed MoUs for 3'147ha of land with Manyamen and Ebanga villages. Betock village found within the area under negotiation was not involved in the exercise. Herakles Farms (SGSOC) has also signed MoUs with Sikam for 4500ha and with Sambaliba for 1000ha of their most suitable village land. All these villages have been left with only few marginal lands and have requested to renegotiate with the company.
4.3 Herakles Farms (SGSOC) intervention in Ndian Division:
In Ndian division, Herakles Farms (SGSOC) is actively negotiating for land with the Batanga and Ngolo communities. They have entered formally into negotiation with Fabe, Lipenja 1&2, Bareka, Mokango and Masaka and Bima villages. Villages which have strictly refused Herakles Farms (SGSOC) project are include Meangwe, Mokange and Ndiba. Herakles Farms (SGSOC) have not yet approached all villages found in the Ndian block since the population is not really welcoming the project. The area is already quite densely populated and the topography not really favorable for their operations. Herakles Farms (SGSOC) will certainly enter very soon in negotiation with Babianbanga, Tombe, Banyu, Dienge, Mwangale and Mosanja villages where a big portion of “non permanent forest”2 can be found.
Herakles Farms (SGSOC) is currently negotiating huge expand of land around Mosongisele, Weke, Idibanyanga and Ngumu. The “Mosongisele (8000 ha) and Ngumu (3000 ha) concession3”is found at the direct periphery of Korup National Park. The concession is not leaving a single piece of land for Weke and Idibayanga villages’ expansion (see annex 2, map 3&4). Mosongisele and Ngumu communities are left only with a small portion of the Korup NP 3 km peripheral zone. This new development represents a direct threat to KNP since the only land left aside to the community is within the 3 km peripheral zone of the KNP (see annex 2, map 5). Apparently Mosongisele village is negotiating 1600 ha additional land to be developed by the company as small holder scheme. If this is confirmed, it will be developed within the KNP 3km peripheral zone. The concession is also overlapping with the KNP 3km peripheral zone which in an inter-ministerial meeting on 28/10/2010 between MINFOF, MINEPAT, MINDAF and MINADER was excluded for the SGSOC project.
Most of the Chiefs and village representatives we met expressed their skepticism concerning Herakles Farms (SGSOC) project; the scale targeted by the company is far too unreasonable 2The forestry law considers two categories of forests, permanent and non-permanent ones.
3Appellation used in the legend and will leave nothing to their communities (forest resources such as timber, wildlife, NTFP…). During their first contact with the company, Herakles Farms (SGSOC) was proposing the development of out-grower schemes. Later on the company has progressively abandoned this option and Herakles Farms (SGSOC) interest is now clearly to get as much land as they can from them. There are other companies such as CDC which propose out-grower scheme for rubber. They have also heard about government programs and grants to support farmers with plantain seedlings, cocoa livelihood Program… They proposed that the GoC and international agencies should support technically and financially their local development.
The team has collected during its fact finding mission in 20 villages a lot of information showing the way SGSOC is operating. The negotiation is done with lot of intimidation and bribery, targeting the chiefs and some few influential decision - making members of the communities (see annex 3, picture 4). The negotiation is not transparent and also differs from one village to another. SGSOC negotiation methods are clearly not respecting “Free Prior and Informed Consent” process (FPIC) principles. “FPIC implies that communities have the right to decide whether they will agree to the project or not once they have a full and accurate understanding of the implications of the project on them and their customary land4”.Communities should be informed on what is a large scale plantation, on the positive and negative impacts of Herakles Farms (SGSOC) project in the short, medium and long term.
Communities should also be made aware of other development models and on the contribution of the forest to their livelihood.
Herakles Farms (SGSOC) land negotiation process principally follows three steps: