By Ndi Eugene Ndi
A petition accompanied by some 180,281 signatures collected in Cameroon and internationally has been submitted to the President Paul Biya, asking him not to renew the palm oil plantation grant to Sithe Global Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC) in the South West region, Greenpeace Africa has revealed as the palm oil giant is seeking an extension of its lease.
At a press conference in Yaounde on Wednesday 21 December 2016, an official of the advocacy group said the volume of the signatures demonstrated a strong public opposition against the Manyemen-based company.
“We feel encouraged that so many Cameroonians have signed this petition against SGSOC’s grant. It is our sincere hope that the government now will listen to the cry of the people,” said Eric Ini, Greenpeace Africa’s forest campaigner.
The activist said the project was in a densely forested area in a biodiversity hotspot bordering five natural reserves and could result in dire consequences for the livelihoods of thousands of local inhabitants and for the global climate. Several traditional rulers from the villages located around the concession area wrote a letter, on 25 October 2016, stating to the President of Cameroon that they would withdraw their support to the establishment of oil palm plantation by SGSOC.
“It is very controversial in not respecting the best practices and rules for development. It has ignited many land disputes and inter-village boundary conflicts which never existed before SGSOC,” stated the letter. Greenpeace said it had informed the international community, through various embassies in Cameroon about the signed petition against the company’s continuous presence in the country. But the oil palm company says the local traditional authorities are ‘being manipulated’ by foreign non-governmental organisations.
“It is not SGSOC that demarcates boundaries in communities. It’s the land consultative board put in place by the government where the company is also part of it,” said Chief Dr Blessed Okole, Managing Director of SGSOC, hoping the firm’s pending lease renewal will be signed.
“We have a Memorandum of Understanding with the communities,” Dr Okole said. SGSOC first entered Cameroon in 2009 and obtained a three years provisional land lease on 25 November 2013 through a Presidential. It operated in the country as a subsidiary of New York-based agribusiness firm, Herakles Farms, until 2015 when it switched as an independent Local Corporation.
By Ndi Eugene Ndi