Representatives of 21 villages affected by industrial rubber project Sud-Cameroun Hevea (“Sudcam”), which is responsible for the largest single destruction of rainforests anywhere in Central Africa, have denounced the impacts of the rubber plantations on their rights and livelihoods.
In a statement issued last week, they ask the Cameroonian government and the company that their rights are respected, they are fairly compensated for their loss of livelihoods and they receive genuine benefits from the project.
Established in 2008, Sudcam, now a subsidiary of Singapore rubber giant Halcyon Agri, was granted almost 60,000 hectares of forest without an environmental impact assessment and without consulting the many local and indigenous communities that would be impacted. Since 2011, Sudcam has cleared close to 10,000 hectares of forest, with feared knock-on effects on the neighbouring Dja Faunal Reserve, a UNESCO heritage site.
The project has also had serious impacts on local and indigenous Baka communities. Community mapping supported by the Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) and local non-government organisation (NGO) Appui à l'Auto Promotion et Insertion des Femmes, des Jeunes et Désoeuvrés (APIFED) has shown that close to 30 communities live and depend on the area granted to Sudcam for hunting, fishing, farming and collection of forest products.
Three indigenous Baka communities living in the forest were forcibly evicted to make way for the plantation in 2015. A total of around 120 people were forced to find shelter in neighbouring Bantu villages, where they now live in dire conditions and face serious discriminations and human rights abuses. To date, none have received any compensation.
"Respect for the rights of local and indigenous communities is imperative to achieving equitable development in Cameroon. It is important that the government and its economic partners like Sudcam address affected communities' concerns, in accordance with national laws and regulations," said Marie Ba'ane of APIFED.
“Sudcam took us out of our forest and today we live in difficult conditions […] We want to be resettled and need support to adapt to our new life,” said Parfait, a Baka leader from Edjom village.
Simon Counsell, Executive Director of RFUK, said: “This case yet again demonstrates the threat of unfettered agro-industrial expansion in Central African rainforests. We ask that Halcyon Agri and the Cameroon government now seriously heed the communities' concerns and take necessary measures to ensure that agricultural development doesn’t come at the expense of rainforests and the people that live and depend on them.”