Cameroon biodiversity hotspot in grave danger as palm oil conglomerate quits sustainability group



Posted on 05 September 2012  | 
Yaounde, Cameroon: Sustainable palm oil development and a key biodiversity hotspot in Cameroon are under increased threat as the developer of a controversial 70,000 hectare palm oil plantation quits the key organization setting environmental and social sustainability standards in the global industry, WWF warned today.

WWF was one of a number of complainants to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) that US-based Herakles Farms had not adequately followed RSPO guidelines on new plantings designed to protect high conservation value forest and community interests. The RSPO had asked Herakles to suspend clearing while discussions concluded on the outstanding issues with WWF-Cameroon and the other 7 complainants.

Herakles’ decision to quit RSPO – announced yesterday by the RSPO – means that the 70,000 hectare plantation proposal for areas of high conservation value forest surrounded by national parks and forest reserves is no longer subject to the restraints and protections offered by the only globally agreed standard for the sustainable production of palm oil that is independently monitored and supported by global markets.

WWF and the other complainants had been seeking for Herakles to carry out an adequate High Conservation Value Assessment of the entire 70,000 hectare concession area before development started, as well as asking the company to address other issues including ensuring the respect for land tenure rights, the implementation of the free, prior and informed consent process and transparent communications with stakeholders.

"This is a very sad day for Cameroon,” said BasileYapo, Country Director of WWF Cameroon.
 
“WWF believes that sustainable palm oil can be a reality in Cameroon but only if it is produced by responsible companies according to RSPO principles and criteria, supported by sustainable land use policies and involving local communities.

“It is clear that the Herakles project will likely fall short of these standards. Given the rapid pace and scale of palm oil development in West Africa, it is critically important that the governments in the region put in place vital safeguards to insure that these projects are sustainable,” he added.

WWF is calling on investors to steer clear of any palm oil development by irresponsible companies in Cameroon and other frontier regions.

“Forests in the green heart of Africa are vulnerable targets for expansion, as palm oil companies look beyond Indonesia and Malaysia for new land to expand palm oil production,” said Adam Harrison, WWF International’s representative on the RSPO Executive Board.

“WWF calls on investors to support only RSPO members who actively adhere to RSPO principles. Investors should also encourage development on degraded land in order to avoid further negative impacts by the palm oil business on forests, species and people.”
Aerial view of small oil palm plantation in the rainforest of Southeastern Cameroon. Forests in the green heart of Africa are vulnerable targets for expansion, as palm oil companies look beyond Indonesia and Malaysia for new land to expand palm oil production
© WWF-Canon / Carlos Drews Enlarge

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