New York based investment firm, Herakles has its eyes set on a 60,000 square mile area of the Cameroon landscape, with the hope of turning the area into one of the world’s largest production sites of palm-oil. In a market typically dominated by plantations based out of Asia, Herakles hopes to cash in and get a piece of this multi-billion-dollar-a-year industry.
However, many conservationists are concerned by the damage these plans will have on the already fragile environment. Nigel Sizer, director of the World Resources Institute (WRI)’s Global Forests Initiative, explains that “Given the versatility of oil palm and so much degraded, deforested land across the tropics, surely there are better places to make this kind of investment.”
Sizer’s concern does not come without warrant.
As it turns out, the proposed area happens to be considered a High Conservation Value Forest (HCVF), meaning that this rainforest is one of the most bio diverse, and vulnerable, areas in the world. The Herakles Farm plantation is to be set up in the midst of four already protected areas of forests including Korup National Park, Rumpi Hills Forest Reserve, Bakossi National Park, and the Banyang Mbo Wildlife Sanctuary. The Korup National Park alone is home to a wide variety of life including an excess of 600 species of trees, 200 species of reptiles and amphibians, 400 different types of birds, 1,000 varieties of butterflies, 160 different mammals (including rare species of elephant, leopards, bushpigs), and the most diverse communities of primates in the world.
Additionally there are fears that this coming production will negatively affect the life and cultural infrastructure of the communities living nearby. “Workers will migrate into the area seeking jobs and they will demand bushmeat,” explains the SAVE-Wildlife Conservation Fund in a statement. “Hunters will have even more incentive to violate Cameroon law and harvest animals from inside the protected areas, where animal populations are still relatively abundant.”
But that is not how Herakles sees it. According to the company, they view their presence as a welcoming boon to the local economy—providing both jobs and benefits to the many living in the Cameroon rainforests. Furthermore, Herakles has plans to bankroll the planting of “1 million oil palm trees” on behalf of their nonprofit organization, All for Africa– a seemingly grand gesture of environmental generosity.
–However, what they fail to explain is these palm trees will be replacing the lush canopy already there. “All for Africa is claiming that these plantations will help thwart climate change because…their plantation will absorb ‘more than 28 million tons of carbon dioxide,’” explains an anonymous source close to the issue. “If they were planting their oil palms over concrete parking lots, then yes, their claim would be valid. But they are not—they are removing native forests and replacing them with a monoculture.”
As of now, Herakles is meeting with opposition in raising the $300 million necessary to begin their plans. The problem lies in that many investors may be turned away from the idea of supporting a project that has so many environmental, political, and cultural liabilities.
And while that has not stopped them for starting, it is still not too late to stop the progress of the palm-oil plantation. To help show support for the Cameroon rainforest and stop the progress of the Herakles Farms plantation, sign the petition here.
Photo Credit: photos.mongabay.com/11/0914map.jpg