Mongabay | 7 April 2016
by John C. Cannon
Herakles’ palm oil concessions lie scattered throughout the forest near Cameroon’s southwest border with Nigeria. Global Forest Watch shows several occupy Intact Forest Landscapes – large, undisturbed areas of primary forest – and are close to protected areas like Korup National Park. However, the concessions have seen little in the way of plantation development. Most of this activity has been concentrated in one concession near Manyemen, which lost 323 hectares of tree cover between 2011 and 2014. Satellite imagery from 2011 shows the concession recently held thick forest.
• In 2009, Herakles Farms was awarded 73,000 hectares of largely forested land in the southwest portion of the country to develop into palm oil plantations. The allotment was reduced to less than 20,000 hectares in 2013 when it was discovered the land had been awarded incorrectly.
• Since it appeared in Cameroon, Herakles has been at the center of controversy, with local activists and international NGOs alike claiming the company acquired and started developing land without the consent of the communities that surround and depend on it.
• Herakles has not been active in its concessions in recent years, but its contract for the land remains valid. The company has until November 2016 to develop its holdings.
Getting to Mundemba in Cameroon from the highway intersection in Kumba requires a four- hour (or more) drive on a dusty – or impassably muddy – road through sun-seared hamlets and then kilometer after kilometer of oil palm plantations set up decades ago by state-run palm oil companies, Pamol and the Cameroon