US agribusiness could carve ten Manhattans out of African forest: Greenpeace


WEBWIRE – Wednesday, February 20, 2013

New York - Massive carbon emissions and the destruction of habitats critical to threatened animal species – those will be just some of the results if a palm oil plantation by New York-based agribusiness Herakles Farms in Cameroon is not stopped, according to investigations from Greenpeace USA.

“The Herakles Farms project can be seen as part of a wider land grab in Africa. The company sees only the opportunity to make money, ignoring the fact it will destroy a rainforest area of great biodiversity and the livelihoods of local people who farm it,” said Rolf Skar, Forest Campaign Director with Greenpeace USA.

Released today, Herakles Farms in Cameroon: A showcase in bad palm oil production details how at least 86% of the 73,000-hectare concession area in the Southwest Region of Cameroon is dense natural forest. Up to 9.5 million tonnes of carbon would be released into the atmosphere were the area flattened – the equivalent of all the carbon emitted by nearly 7 million cars in one year [1].

The report details how Herakles is trying to push the project through despite being in contravention of national law, large discrepancies in its environmental impact study and opposition from residents.

“We have been working in this area for 17 years, the proposed plantation is located between five protected areas and any attempt to open it up will have catastrophic effects on the environment,” said Nasako Besingi, Director of the Cameroonian NGO, SEFE, which has campaigned against the project for several years.

Opponents to the project in Cameroon, including Besingi, have been subjected to intimidation and arbitrary arrest.

The concession area, roughly ten times the size of Manhattan, is home to endangered species such as the Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee subspecies, the Forest Elephant and the Drill as well as numerous other rare amphibians, birds and animals.

“Herakles Farms has named Nestle, Unilever, McDonalds and Walmart as potential customers for its palm oil, which is impossible. These companies have committed to sourcing policies which bar them from buying palm oil from companies like Herakles,” said Skar.

Herakles Farms’ subsidiary in Cameroon SGSOC withdrew its membership from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, after last year displaying an inability to meet even the most basic standards of palm oil certification.

Palm oil production in Africa has expanded greatly in recent years and when done well can produce a needed boost for both national and local economies. But when done badly it can destroy areas of natural beauty and the livelihoods of local farmers.

Notes to editors:

1. Assuming 151 Mg C/ha (above and below ground biomass) for canopy cover is greater than 30% (Saatchi et al. 2011. PNAS 108:9899-9904), which would be the case for the closed canopy forest in the concession area. On carbon emissions from a car: calculation based on US Environmental Protection Agency estimates of carbon produced by one car in a year (1.39 tonnes): www.epa.gov/otaq/climate/documents/420f11041.pdf
2. The Herakles Farms Crime File can be downloaded here: http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/en/media-center/reports/Herakles-Farms-in-Cameroon/
3. Greenpeace International’s briefing paper on palm oil production can be found here: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/africa-palm-oil/



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