(Business in Cameroon) - On May 27, 2014, the international NGO, Greenpeace, presented its investigative report in which it was revealed that “the American company, Herakles Farms, by way of a front company, conspired with the Cameroonian Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife (which, so far, has issued no response to the accusation) to obtain unlawfully a logging licence as a part of the land deal it was granted in November 2013. Herakles Farms is preparing to export timber felled, in violation of Cameroonian law, to China.”
Greenpeace revealed in January 2014 that “a little known company” named Uniprovince, which was bought not long ago by Herakles Farms’ Cameroonian subsidiary, obtained a licence from the Cameroonian government (ventes de coupe number 11-02-10) for over 6,000 acres. The ventes de coupes was done on the property of Herakles Farms in an area where the company conducted most of its illegal timber activity before even the signing of the presidential decree granting it a provisional land concession in November 2013.
However, Greenpeace notes that, “the vente de coupe was done in blatant violation of Cameroonian forestry laws. Indeed, the law states that ventes de coupe may only be granted within the framework of a call for tenders, which was not extended to Uniprovince.” Furthermore, “vente de coupe no. 11-02-10 is all the more suspect as it does not appear in the more recent list of forestry licences published by the Ministry of Forestry on March 10.” Yet, it is dated January 28, 2014 and the corresponding certificate was delivered on February 6 which is over a month before the Ministry published its list of valid licences for 2014.”
Head of Greenpeace Africa, Irène Wabiwa, concluded that this oversight is, “by all appearances, a deliberate attempt to conceal an illegal decision made in favour of a company behind which Herakles Farms was hiding.” In light of yet another infraction by Herakles Farms revealed by national and international civil society organisations, Green Peace has called on the State of Cameroon to intervene “so that the total stock of timber may be seized and the illegal vente de coupe be called off. An investigation must be opened to determine who is responsible and take steps against all parties implicated in the vente de coupe.”
In November 2013, Herakles Farms finally obtained a provisional land concession on close to 50,000 acres to cultivate palm oil in the South-West region of Cameroon. But, it was in 2009 that the agro-industrial company signed an establishment agreement for the sale of over 185,000 acres of land. However, international NGOs such as Greenpeace and the Oakland Institute, linked locally by the CED, have always accused Herakles Farms’ Cameroonian subsidiary of flouting the rights of residents located in the area of various project sites and even of violating regulations related to environmental protection in Cameroon.
The multiple complaints by NGOs as well as those of local inhabitants, led the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, Philip Ngole Ngwese, to temporarily suspend activity at Herakles Farms for violating existing forestry legislation. But this measure was lifted several weeks later in May 2013, some six months before the presidential decree officially granting the 50,000 acre deal to the American company.