Tag Archives: oil palm

Stolen land: Nigerian villagers want their land back from Wilmar

Note: Yet again, so-called “developing” country communities are left holding the bag for the attempts of the so-called “industrialized” countries to have “clean” “renewable” energy that is neither.  It may not be fossil fuel, but it is devastating none the less.

–The GJEP Team

By  • Dec 26, 2013

Linus Orok (left) and Patrick Chi of Ekong Anaku village, Nigeria

This is the second of a series of interviews about resistance to the expansion of industrial oil palm plantations in West and Central Africa.

Members of communities affected by these monoculture plantations and civil society organizations from Africa, Europe, the Americas and Asia met in Calabar, Nigeria from 2–5 November 2013. They shared testimonies and analysis of the consequences of the rapid and brutal expansion of monoculture oil palm plantations by multinational companies in different communities and countries.

Also read about community organizer Nasako Besingi’s experience of being beaten, arrested and sued for supporting villagers in Cameroon defending their lands from US hedge fund Herakles Capital.

The people of Ekong Anaku Village had a difficult decision to make. Their village in southeastern Nigeria lies in one of the countries’ few remaining tropical rainforests. Conservation groups and the federal government wanted it conserved as a reserve. The villagers were keen for the extra protection against illegal logging, but they were worried about losing access to the hunting, foods and medicines the forest provides them and to lands that future generations would need for farming.

So in 1992 they made a deal with the government. They agreed to allow the conversion of a 10,000 ha section of their traditional forest into a reserve. In exchange, the government promised to provide programmes for agroforestry and rural development and credit for small farms and businesses.

“The government’s promises were only ever on the drawing board,” says Linus Orok, a village leader from Ekong Anaku village. “And this was only a small piece of the betrayal we encountered.”

Ten years after convincing Ekong Anaku village to hand over its forest for conservation, the governor of Cross River State gifted the same lands to a company owned by Nigeria’s president at the time, Olusegun Obasanjo.

“They never consulted us, not even the local chiefs,” says Orok.

Obasanjo’s company, Obasanjo Farms, planned to convert the 10,000 ha of forest into a large scale oil palm plantation. It lacked the capacity, however, and soon turned to outside investors.

In 2011, having acquired the lands for free and invested very little of his own money, Obasanjo turned around and sold the lands to Wilmar International, which controls 45 percent of global production of palm oil. The locals say that Obasanjo’s company was paid millions of dollars under the deal.

With the support of the Rainforest Resource Development Centre (RRDC), the Ekong Anaku villagers have been fighting to get their lands back ever since.

“The land was never Obasanjo’s to sell,” says Orok. “If you buy something stolen, then you cannot say it is yours.”

Wilmar, however, has already established a large oil palm nursery and has cleared some lands for planting.

Patrick Chi, another resident of Ekong Anaku, says the villagers are open to developing some form of partnership with Wilmar on the existing plantation lands, but it has to be based on an understanding that the lands belong to the community.

“We want it to be our plantation,” says Chi.

Wilmar oil palm nursery, Cross River State, Nigeria

Orok explains that the villagers have three basic demands: the existing plantation must be operated as a partnership; there can be no expansion beyond the areas that have already been cleared for planting; and, the government must identify and provide the village with an alternative area of land of equal size where they can farm.

“We need land now,” says Chi. “Our village is starving.”

So far, Wilmar’s kept quiet about the controversy. TheRRDC brought a complaint forward to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, of which Wilmar is a member, but neither the company nor the RSPO have acted to address thespecific complaints made about the illegal acquisition of the Ekong Anaku community’s traditional lands.

Even if the communities do succeed in getting some form of partnership with Wilmar, there’s no guarantee that they will benefit from it. A newly released documentary film looks into Wilmar’s operations in Uganda, where it runs a plantation and outgrower scheme in partnership with the local communities of Kalangala Island. In the film, community members describe how the little they have gained from the arrangement in no way compensates for the loss of food crops and forests and the environmental destruction caused by Wilmar’s operations.

In early December, Wilmar announced a new company policy, pledging – among other things – to “respect and recognize the long-term customary and individual rights of indigenous and local communities, and commit to ensuring legal compliance as well as international best practices in free, prior and informed consent are implemented”. The “No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation Policy” also states that no new land development will occur until research and consultation over the conversion of “high carbon stock forests” is finalized.

The company has committed itself to “resolve all complaints and conflicts through an open, transparent and consultative process.” This corner of southeastern Nigeria would be an ideal place to see if Wilmar’s statement is anything more than a public relations exercise.

Regardless, the Ekong Anaku villagers know that their claims to the lands are on solid legal ground, and if they are unable to advance their demands through dialogue with Wilmar, they say they won’t hesitate to go to court.

This past year another company, owned by Nigeria’s Dangote Group, showed up looking for lands in a separate part of their territory for a pineapple plantation.

“Workers came to do a survey in October 2013 and our chief sent them away,” says Chi. “We told Dangote we don’t need them.”

The Ekong Anaku village welcomes international support for its land struggle with Wilmar. Patrick Chi can be contacted atmukotso@yahoo.com and Linus Orok can be contacted by phone at +234 703 448 9776

For more information about the case, please contact

Odey Oyama, Executive Director, Rainforest Resource and Development Centre (RRDC)

email: odeyoyama@hotmail.com

Information about the documentary film, No Food No Land No Life is available here: http://nolandnofoodnolife.com/

This article originally appeared at


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Trans-Latin business and land grabbing in Latin America

By Sally Burch, December 16, 2013. Source: ALAI

eucapLand-grabbing involving huge amounts of land, a phenomenon that arose principally in the last decade and which has been accentuated since the food crisis of 2008, is radically transforming agrarian structures in the world, displacing campesinos (peasant farmers) and increasing the hold of agroindustry.  In Africa and Asia, this phenomenon mainly results from agreements between States, where a government agrees to the buying or renting of huge extensions of land – one hundred, two hundred thousand hectares or more – in another country, in order to produce food under their control and to export it, and thus guarantee the food security of their populations.Nevertheless, the process has taken on a distinct characteristic in Latin America, as Cristobal Kay, a specialist in development and agrarian reform, explains.  In our Continent, it is not other States but mainly big trans-Latin corporations that are investing in neighbouring countries.  In an interview with ALAI, Kay noted that, as this process increases, it becomes much more complex to envisage agrarian reform in the countries affected.

An academic specialized in development theory, who studied first in Chile and in England and is now a professor at the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, Cristobal Kay recalls that in Latin America, this phenomenon has its roots in the “lost decade” of the 1980s, with neoliberal policies.  When States abandoned policies of credit and technical assistance to campesinos and lowered customs barriers to the importation of foods, peasant economy became marginalized and many campesinos had to seek other sources of income, when not to emigrate.  On the other hand, the rural sectors that benefited were those capitalist agricultural producers that had access to investment and the necessary knowledge to move into new export markets, with new products such as broccoli and other vegetables, fruit and African palm oil.
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Africa’s vanishing forests

By Jocelyn C. Zuckerman, December 4, 2013. Source: OnEarth

Photo: Marco Di Lauro

Photo: Marco Di Lauro

You see that coconut tree?” said Daniel Krakue, gesturing out beyond the windshield. “That used to be a village.”

It wasn’t hard to see the tree. Apart from a skinny papaya trunk, it was the only thing rising from the surrounding sea of green. We were in Sinoe County, in southwestern Liberia, on a plantation run by a company called Golden Veroleum (GVL), and for miles around there was nothing growing but baby palms, whose lime-colored fronds stretched out about as wide, some three feet or so, as they did high. Earlier we’d driven through large expanses freshly cleared of their native vegetation, weird deserts of orange mud interrupted only by the corrugated wakes of the ubiquitous giant yellow earthmovers. The company has been in operation in Liberia only since 2009. And the 543,000-acre lease it signed with the government runs for 65 years, with an option for a 33-year extension, so GVL is just getting started.

Krakue is an environmental advocate who has worked with the Sustainable Development Initiative (SDI), a local partner of Friends of the Earth, and he had accompanied me here from Monrovia, the nation’s capital, on a road so riven with ditches, potholes, and impromptu lakes that it took us eight hours to go 150 miles. Sinoe County is home to some 104,000 people, but its isolation and its history as a center of the civil wars that wracked this tiny West African nation from 1989 to 2003 have left it with the ambience of a place that’s been forgotten.

We pulled over in a village called Pluoh, a scattering of mud-and-thatch houses, where a sign staked in the ground read Malaria Spoils Belly. Aside from a few chickens scratching around and a preschooler in a raggedy party dress vigorously cranking a water pump, there wasn’t a whole lot going on. Little clusters of people sat on crude wooden benches propped beneath the thatch eaves of their huts, and the cries of babies floated on the still morning air. Krakue introduced me to Benedict Menewah, a scrawny 45-year-old father of seven, who filled me in on the story of the lone coconut tree.
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Honduras: Huge Political Crisis As Right Steals Elections

Note: There are very clear links between the coup in Honduras and the overthrow of Zelaya with the emergence of Honduras as a major center for palm oil production for biofuels–largely for import into the US.  To read more about this and the resistance of Honduras peasant communities against the oil palm industry, visit our coverage of the issue here.

November 28, 2013, By Elena Zeledon.  Source: GreenLeft.org

Large-scale electoral fraud affected every aspect of the November 24 general elections in the Central American country of Honduras. This has sparked a huge political crisis, which matches and possibly surpasses the crises produced by the coup d’etat that overthrew president Manuel Zelaya in 2009. The fraud has denied victory to Liberty and Refoundation (LIBRE) party presidential candidate Xiomara Castro, the wife of Zelaya. LIBRE was formed National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP), which united many sectors that took part in the resistance to the coup.

In Honduras, one of the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere and occupying an area about the size of Queensland, two decades of struggle has helped develop one of the most social and class conscious movements in the world.

It has been governed for decades by a series of revolving door governments headed by either the National or Liberal parties. When the level of social struggles or political impasses reached a crises point, the army stepped in. Military dictatorships would end these “democratic interludes”, and then step back into the shadows allowing the two parties to play out its game of charades.

Fraud Revealed
This “two-party” cycle was ended on November 24 with the result for LIBRE. Castro is the legitimate president. There is no doubt in the minds of any independent observer that LIBRE won the vote. There is also no doubt that the ruling National Party and its presidential candidate Juan Orlando Hernandez, the self-proclaimed winner, engaged in huge electoral fraud. This took place on in the run-up to the vote, as well as on election day.

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Video: Oil palm in Africa – Voices from the communities

Wednesday, September 18. Source: World Rainforest Movement

Industrial oil palm plantations are rapidly expanding, not only in Liberia. In many African countries expansion projects are happening and plans are announced. Everywhere they go, the companies promise jobs and development.

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Palm oil project in Cameroon continues producing controversy, opposition

By Curtis Kline, Sep 18, 2013. Source: Intercontinental Cry

 Herakles Farms' oil palm nurseries, 2011 (Photo SAVE)

Herakles Farms’ oil palm nurseries, 2011 (Photo SAVE)

The proposed 76,000 hectare palm oil plantation in Southwest Cameroon by New York based Herakles Farms has been a major source of controversy since the project was announced in 2009.

Recently, the controversy was centered on the Cameroonian government’s decision to lift a suspension of the project with no explanation after issuing it just two weeks earlier. The suspension followed frequent protests by human rights organizations, environmental groups and the Bassossi, Upper Balong, Nguti, Oroko, Bakossi, and Upper Bayang Indigenous Peoples.

Now the local Indigenous communities–who are faced with displacement and the loss of their forest and livelihoods–are hearing reports that Herakles Farms’ Cameroonian subsidiary, Sithe Global-Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SG-SOC), is looking to sell off its existing plantations rather than shut down completely.

Chief Tabi Napolean of Baro-Upper Balong, one of the villages located in the project area, has said that his people were never informed about the realities of the scheme. In an article from the Thompson Reuters Foundation, Chief Tabi Napolean stated that “We were only told a plantation was coming to our community, bringing employment opportunities to our youths. Now we realize our forest – which is our main source of living – is gradually being destroyed, putting the future of our children in jeopardy”.

A report issued by Nature Cameroon, Struggle to Economise Future Environment (SEFE), and Green Peace says that Herakles is in the process of selling its nurseries to PAMOL, a state-owned palm oil company. Nasako Besingi, director of SEFE, says “Herakles Farms – which has leased land from the government for a period of 99 years – plans to sell off its plantations in 2017 to interested investors in a move that would completely quash the Indigenous community’s hope of regaining ownership of the land”.

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Breaking: MEPs vote to tackle biofuel emissions from 2020

By Will Nichols, September 11, 2013. Source: Business Green

european-parliament-6-185x185MEPs have today approved a cap on the production of food crop-based biofuels and backed plans to measure indirect emissions from 2020.

A European Parliament vote in Strasbourg confirmed fuels derived from food crops such as wheat, corn, or sugar cannot contribute more than six per cent towards the bloc’s 2020 goal of sourcing 10 per cent of transport energy from renewable sources. MEPs also backed a 2.5 per cent share for advanced biofuels, which are derived from feedstocks such as algae or waste.

The six per cent limit is higher than current production levels, which will please producers who argued the industry needs room to grow and that a low cap would damage investment in advanced biofuels.

However, it will anger environmental campaigners who had wanted a lower cap, arguing the expansion of Europe’s biofuels industry is displacing food production in developing countries, forcing up food prices, and causing clearances of rainforests, wetlands, or grasslands, which can release huge amounts of carbon.
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India and China oil palms dangerously

By Sudeshna Sardar, 11 August, 2013. Source: Inter Press Service

A woman in Riau in Sumatra wears a mask for protection from the pollution caused by forest fires. Photo: Ulet Ifansasti/Greenpeace.

A woman in Riau in Sumatra wears a mask for protection from the pollution caused by forest fires. Photo: Ulet Ifansasti/Greenpeace.

KOLKATA, India – When there is feasting in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, there could just be a connection between the celebrations and the fires on Indonesia’s Sumatra Island that trigger frequent transboundary smog.

And when China’s population of more than a billion consumes yet more noodles, Malaysia should perhaps brace for greater air pollution.

Though not as simplistic and direct, there is nevertheless a tangible link among all these happenings and countries. It’s called palm oil, Asia’s new “liquid gold”.

Southeast Asia – read Indonesia and Malaysia – are the biggest producers of the oil obtained from the fruit of the oil palm tree, accounting for nearly 85 percent of global output. Continue reading

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