A U.S. corporation called Herakles Farms is pushing ahead with plans to illegally destroy over 150,000 acres of primate rainforest – an area ten times larger than Manhattan - to create a palm oil plantation in Cameroon.
Along with its local subsidiary SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC), and it's created "non-profit organization" All for Africa, Herakles has already begun to clear land in the world’s second largest rainforest, destroying the habitats of some of our planet’s most beautiful and endangered species, like the African elephant and chimpanzee. Once this environment is destroyed, it will never come back.
What’s more, Herakles is carrying out their project illegally, without any regard for the livelihoods of over 45,000 indigenous Cameroonians who rely on the rainforest for subsistence farming.
Yet Herakles Farms’ CEO Bruce Wrobel had repeatedly refused to acknowledge these facts. According to Herakles, the “vast majority of the concession is secondary and degraded forest” and the concession area was located on “land that had been previously logged.” Yet, ground, aerial and satellite surveys have proven this to be untrue. In fact, the forest remains largely intact and Herakles Farms will be cutting down dense, high canopy tropical rainforest of exceptional ecological richness and diversity. It sits in one of the largest surviving tracts of lowland forest in the world. In March 2012, a group of 11 scientists from leading academic and research institutions around the world issued an open letter in opposition to the proposed plantation and expressing deep concern for the plantation’s biological impact.
But Herakles didn’t listen.
They’ve continued with their plan, and the rainforest has already begun to be destroyed, in direct violation of international law. As a signatory to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the government of Cameroon is obligated to gain the consent of Indigenous Peoples for projects that may affect them. Herakles has violated the law in moving forward with their plan, despite widespread opposition to the project.
Protests against Herakles Farms have erupted in several areas. Petitions and letters from local villagers and local leadership, representing thousands of individuals, have decried the activities of Herakles Farms. Locals cite an alarming lack of transparency, their lack of consent, the illegal demarcation and clearing of land and the biological, economic, and cultural importance of the area as reasons for opposing the project. Simply put, the residents do not want their way of life destroyed for corporate interest. Despite this, Herakles Farms maintains their stance that the project enjoys an “outpouring of support from communities” and has shown no concern for the livelihoods of the local people.
In order to move more rapidly on their project, the company recently left the Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a certification scheme designed to promote global social and environmental standards for palm oil production. Without such international oversight, the company now hopes to be able to do whatever it takes to accelerate the development of their plantation.
Herakles Farms insists that it wants to “address a dire humanitarian need,” and would contribute to poverty reduction and economic development in Cameroon. All for Africa, a "nonprofit organization" founded by Wroebel, has promoted this project as part of its “Palm out Poverty” campaign and has deceitfully advertised it to donors as being environmentally and socially responsible and sustainable. The NGO is currently fundraising to plant 1 million palm trees as part of this project, but has failed to tell its donors and supporters about the local opposition, the destruction of farmland, and the massive deforestation it will create.
The Government of Cameroon has fallen for the corporate trickery and agreed to give Herakles complete legal impunity in their plans. Herakles has been made exempt from national law – giving them the power to destroy protected nature reserves, force people from their land, and "search, apprehend, detain, exclude, and evict" anyone trespassing on their leased land – power which they have used to detain protestors and local citizens at will.
Herakles is illegally denying the people of Cameroon their right to free movement on ancestral lands as guaranteed to them in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Cameroon is a signatory. The rights of the Cameroonian people and the welfare of the environment are being violated for the profit of big business. Please sign this petition and share it with everyone you know. We must demand that this tragedy be stopped before it gets any worse.
The land where your plantation is being built is home to some of the oldest and most diverse rainforest in the world. It took thousands of years to grow – and once destroyed, it will never come back.
I am also appalled at your company’s indifference to the protests of thousands of native Cameroonians who have voiced their opposition to the project. They depend on the forest for their income and do not want it to be destroyed. It is their human right to have a say in the management of their land, and for your company to deny them this right for the sake of profit is unethical and irresponsible.
Forest destruction is not and will never be sustainable development. I, and thousands of others, demand that you immediately shelve this project and create a "zero deforestation policy" to ensure that your company does not destroy rainforests for palm oil. I also urge you to implement safeguards to truly respect the rights and livelihoods of indigenous peoples and local communities affected by Herakles Farms operations. I thank you for your time and look forward to a more sustainable future.