By Ian Makia
When News Breaks Out, We Break In. Minute by Minute Report on Cameroon and Africa
The Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife has suspended all deforestation operations of Herakles Farms pending further investigations in the company’s illegal activities in Cameroon.
As the PSMNR report strongly advised that Herakles Farms (SGSOC) land negotiations should be stopped in particular outside the proposed Herakles Farms (SGSOC) concession to avoid potential land use conflicts, also the report stated “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”.
“Some serious evidence of illegal timber exploitation by Herakles Farms (SGSOC) has been noticed close to Fabe village with tracks opened by a caterpillar. There are also very active lands clearing in the area with huge portion of land opened with chainsaws. This may be a sign of land speculation starting in the area” a report stated. It should be recalled that environmentalists have decried and demonstrated that the project is located in a biodiversity hot-spot.
Herakles Farms (SGSOC) negotiation was done with lots of intimidation and bribery, targeting the chiefs and some few influential decision- making members of the communities the report stated.
The negotiation was not transparent and also differs from one village to another. SGSOC negotiation methods were 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 land”. 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.
In recognition of the increasing threats to forest and wildlife resources, Cameroon has signed a number of global and regional conventions as a demonstration of the country’s commitment to the conservation of the world’s environment and resources.
Two of such conventions include the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the March 1999 Yaoundé Declaration. In the latter, Central African Heads of State jointly agreed to stamp out poaching (illegal hunting) and any non sustainable exploitation…as well as work with local communities to sustainably manage forest and wildlife resources in the Sub-region. Furthermore, in 1995 the government of Cameroon formulated a new forestry policy with the aim to protect the environment and its resources.
This new policy and the legal framework provided for (1994 Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries Laws), express the wish of the government of Cameroon to increase the involvement and participation of local populations in the management and conservation of forest and wildlife resources in order to improve their living conditions.