So blessed yet so cursed

Nguti (Kupe Manenguba Division)  of Cameroon —

The people of Upper Balong under the umbrella of Cultural and Development Association (UBACUDA) should read that declaration and statement of solidarity from Mundemba and stop playing lip service to the SGSOC PALM BARONS and the Germany GIZ organization in our sub region of Nguti. The palm oil industry is a recipe for environmental, social and long-term economic disaster.

Betockvoices – the voiceless farmer has being sounding the alarm about this disastrous land grabbing in our villages for years, due to greed, spite, and jealousy they failed to listen, very soon the palm oil barons will be having their windfall, our traditional forests and farms destroyed. The Palm oil is full of corruption, human rights abuses and environmental destruction. 



Please join us in speaking out against this insanity.

Bush fires did wreaked havoc in our farms in the Manyemen/Betock Districts of Cameroon. What protections have existing farmers from these devastating and destructive fires? These fires have been worsened by a growing palm oil industry in the sub-region that provides incentives for farmers to clear their land and plant the lucrative crop. The palm oil industry is a recipe for environmental, social and long-term economic disaster.

This farm wiped out by fire in Betock Villagem Cameroon.
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Photos - Section B wiped out by the Devil's fire in Betock Village 23/03/2016

“What quantity of land will then be left for our prosperity in these villages, when they sold all lands to non-indigenes/migrants or burnt all of us out from our farms?”



Photo - Old Glouester farms of Betock before the fire Nov. 2015



"The widespread slash and burn policy associated with the farming of palm oil is destroying large areas of this sub region of Nguti in Cameroon. They are powerful. They are also wiping out other crop traditional farmers in our sub region of Cameroon".

Photos - Some Cocoa plants survived the fire - 23/06/2016

“The devil's fire was rising from this vast Cocoa agricultural estate, more than a mile wide, lighting up the sky, the estate located next to the village, the main road to Nguti and other farms in the Village, but no person detected the fire for weeks. The fire from that “cut and burn” site was related to deforestation for predominantly oil palm cultivation”.

The widespread slash and burn for-palm-cultivation by outsiders

http://betockvoices.page.tl/Old-Gloucester-farms-workers-the-faces.htm



We are saying no to this - "This is exploitative, scheming, and tribalism tendencies of the plantation owners to grab all the land with the local indigenous residents in Nguti sub region of Cameroon relegated to a beggar status or plantation labours".



They walked on their farms found big yellow machines roiling up and destroying their crops to make way for that palm oil plantation. Did the compensation match the value of farmer’s land and crops? No!!! Displacement of small farmers, loss of incomes and livelihoods for local farmers and depletion of productive resources are all reported. In Nguti sub region of Cameroon smallholder farmers will be worse off with this plantation, there was an increase in social problems including teenage pregnancy, broken marriages, further land sales to strangers and plantation workers, rise in house rents, drunkenness, and with heightened tension within local communities. Fighting the Injustice of Land-Grabs in Africa - http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/fighting-injustice-land-grabs-africa

In Nguti sub region of Cameroon smallholder farmers will be 'worse off' after large land deals, there was an increase in social problems including teenage pregnancy, broken marriages, further land sales to strangers and plantation workers, rise in house rents, and with heightened tension within communities. 

Local indigenous communities can only lose from this new wave of land grabs for palm oil smallholders and plantations. Experience also shows that the employment generated by the plantations and smallholder deals often goes to strangers, leaving the local indigenous communities vulnerable to all sorts of abuses.

A large-scale plantation has often land grab without adequate compensation. According to the Cameroonian law, local communities do not own the land by customary right, and thus expropriation does not require compensation on the part of the State. This land property formula was already used in the times of colonization for expropriating the land of peasants and then transferring it, without cost, to new settlers, who could then grow their crops. After national independence, this practice continued in force, now for the benefit of local elites.


WHO HAS “CHOPPED” FROM SOSOC’S LAND DEALS’ IN THIS SUB REGION?

How many existing farms did SOSOC (HF) destroyed in this sub region?

Why are some Chiefs and elites not investing in community development and conservation programmes?

How many Chiefs and Elites are real farm owners in this sub region?

How many Chiefs and Elites are farmers in this sub region?

How many Chiefs and elites live and work in this sub region?

Who are individuals selling our land to hungry and greedy strangers?


“Foreign plantation owners, farm strangers, corrupt officials and greedy bureaucrats had significant autonomy and authority, so often wielded more power than they ought to have. This situation encouraged self-interest, corruption, venality and heavy-handedness”. 

Local communities can only lose from this new wave of land grabs for palm oil. They lose access to vital lands and water resources, now and for future generations. And they have to face all of the impacts that come with vast monoculture plantations within their territories – pollution from pesticides, soil erosion, deforestation, and labour migration.

“The trees also help control the level of water in the atmosphere by helping to regulate the water cycle. With fewer trees left, due to deforestation for palms, there is less water in the air to be returned to the soil. In turn, this causes dryer soil and the inability to grow crops, an ironic twist. SGSOC is killing that region of Cameroon”

“Herakles Farms had been embroiled in controversies over corruption, greed, and intimidation of local communities in Nguti sub region to acquire land for this oil palm project”.

Read more from………..http://betockvoices.page.tl/The-Voice-of-the-Voiceless.htm


Support Small-scale local farmers, not foreign plantation land grab companies. Every Cameroonian would certainly agree that agriculture, in all its forms, represents the backbone of our economy. High-ranking government officials, including the President of the Republic, have made statements over the last decades to that effect. Yet, agriculture as we know it is carried out by men and women, who are hardworking, are rarely celebrated by the country and not respected by foreign plantation land grab companies and lazy villagers.

While the government has failed to articulate a serious agricultural policy framework in the villages in the South West region of Cameroon, the farmer has remained steadfast, ever more determined to feed her household and increase her economic standing in the process. Her quest to meet the basic needs of her children – food, shelter, education, good health – leads her to travel kilometres at a time on foot, while climbing hills and crossing rivers on a search of arable land. When the rainy season is haphazard, she is patient, studying the skies and waiting for the right time to sow her seeds. She is involved, not only in growing maize, millet, cassava, and plantains but also in poultry farming, animal rearing, and fish rearing. She is ingenious, embracing information technology and using sms messages to reach new markets and expand her potential. She gets up every morning at 5am to ensure that the children have food before going to the local market or to her farm. For her, there is no stopping. Never. She has a family to feed but a country that does not appreciate all she does. She is a hero and a role model to all of us. She is the Cameroonian of the Year.

 “You have no right to speak for us because they have never done anything to help our community out of poverty, we need development and we know these plantations are going to bring infrastructural development in this sub region, like schools, roads, hospitals and especially jobs for our children,” the greedy chief cried out.

This story from Brewaniase, a town in Ghana’s Volta Region, is a warning to landowners in Africa and irresponsible African leaders who are carelessly mortgaging future generations’ inheritance during this global rush for land in Africa. Read more from -http://afjn.org/documents/2014/10/afjn-ghana-land-grab-report-2014.pdf

The need for rural farmer’s Cooperative Societies – We have to pool our resources and work through cooperatives in order to enjoy the benefits of the new projects, seeds and funding from government and the international community. A good working cooperative will be capable of purchasing the produce of local farmers and then market them to make some profits. By being the main purchasers of farmers’ produce, these cooperatives could provide the much needed storage facilities that individual farmers cannot provide for themselves. Such cooperatives will therefore serve as the necessary links between the farmers and the markets, and the cooperatives will help in checking the exploitation the farmers have been experiencing over the years. 

“Herakles Farms has been able to operate with impunity and claims that profits from any of its timber would go to the Cameroonian people, but its current attempts to commercialise illegal wood demonstrates that its true agenda is simply to rescue a financially stricken project." 

The grabbing our land - The polite way to say about land grabbing will be large-scale land ac­quisitions, land purchases often involving tens or even hundreds of thousands of hectares, and often intended to produce commodities for foreign food and biofuel markets. The International Land Coalition, comprised of organizations from community groups to the World Bank, considers a land grab to be any land purchase that involves one or more of these elements:

• Violations of human rights, and particularly the rights of women.

• Violations of the free, prior and informed consent of the affected land users, particularly indigenous peoples.

• Failure to account for impacts on social, farming, and gender relations, and on the environment.

• Lack of clear and binding commitments on employment and benefit sharing.

• Lack of democratic planning, independent oversight and meaningful participation.

• Corruption and intimidation.

Our region in Cameroon is endowed with fertile land and an abundant natural resource base that would contribute enormously to development and solve food insecurity in Cameroon if well harnessed and exploited, but greed, laziness, hate, bad roads to farm, with corruption deprives a majority of the natives from benefiting from the resources. 

 

There is a need for transparency, all contracts and agreements between governments and palm oil developers should be made public, to enable proper public debate, reduce the potential for corruption, intimidation and enable local consultation and participation prior to development. Other relevant documents, maps and planting plans, should also be made public.

 

Threats from some elites and administrative authorities have become the order of the day. It is impossible to “street protest” freely about corruption, environmental damage, exploitation of villagers and other abuses where fear and threats are commonplace. We are not going to be self-censor or silence about saving our farms/forest.

Corruption is the primary obstacle for agriculture development in Cameroon. Corruption affects a staggering number of livelihoods and lives and erodes the faith of citizens in their government and in the rule of law. What’s more, corruption scares away genuine foreign investors, hits the poor the hardest, leads to greater inequality, acts as a regressive tax to the poor while denying them basic services and rights.

From its very name, American-owned SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon, Ltd. (SGSOC) presents a pro-environment, pro-resources image. This is supported by an impressive-sounding partnership with an NGO by the name of All for Africa and as a package typifies the kind of convoluted modern-day foreign investment going on in Africa. It is sadly all too familiar to communities on the ground. They are unimpressed with promises of infrastructure and jobs, and angry about their loss of land and livelihoods. See more at - http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/land-deals-africa-cameroon



Yet on the ground, the deal seemed troubled from day one. A number of government officials told us that Herakles had avoided the standard legal procedures for agricultural land acquisition. That process should have involved several officials and ministries, including the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Motaze leased out 73000 ha of land for $1/ha/year for 99 years. Moreover, Motaze exempted Herakles from taxes and duties and granted the company rights to water, sand, gravel and any potential carbon credits. Now how much did he gets from the deal? This how corrupt officials give away our country to westerners. It wasn’t in his backyardso what the heck? - See more at:http://cameroonwebnews.com/2014/07/12/cameroon-when-wall-street-went-to-africa-tuis-p-motaze-deal/

Herakles Farms (SGSOC) did open around 340ha which is far above the 60ha tolerated by the law before their presidential land lease decree has was signed in November 2013, in Nguti Sub-Division, Herakles Farms (SGSOC) was opening the 2500 ha plantation block negotiated with Talangaye, Ekita, Ebanga and Manyemen. About 600ha of this first block already did fall outside Herakles Farms (SGSOC) proposed concession.



Herakles Farms (SGSOC) was also negotiating huge amount of land completely outside their planned concession. Herakles Farms (SGSOC) has negotiated and signed MoUs for 3'147ha of land with Manyemen and Ebanga villages before a land size reduction.

Betock village and other neighbouring villages refused to enter into any negotiation with Herakles Farms (SGSOC) the way Herakles Farms (SGSOC) was operating in the area, the negotiations was done with lot of intimidation, deceitful promises and bribery, targeting the chiefs and some few influential decision members of the communities. The negotiations were not transparent and did differed from one village to another, communities were convinced to concede as much land as possible without taking into account their own future development needs. Herakles Farms (SGSOC) negotiation methods are clearly not respecting “Free Prior and Informed Consent” process (FPIC) principles. “FPIC implies that communities have the right to decide whether they will agree to the project or not once they have a full and accurate understanding of the implications of the project on them and their customary land”. Communities should have been informed on what is a large scale plantation, on the positive and negative impacts of Herakles Farms (SGSOC) project in the short, medium and long term. Communities should have being also been made aware of other development models and on the contribution of the forest to their livelihood. 

Operating illegally in Cameroon for more than three years Herakles farms (SGSOC) was granted a land lease by three different Presidential decrees in Nov. 2013, the land size reduced from 69,700 hectares to approximately 20,000 hectares of land. Serious evidence of illegal timber exploitation has being reported and the potential profits from harvesting the Timber logs may be the main reason behind continually of the project. No maps are publicly available for the Herakles farms (SGSOC) land concession.

The Decrees are available at:    

http://www.journalducameroun.com/files/communiques/100.pdf

http://www.journalducameroun.com/files/communiques/101.pdf

http://www.journalducameroun.com/files/communiques/102.pdf

Following the Forestry Ministry’s suspension of felling operations in April 2013 and the lifting of the suspension in May 2013, one has the impression that the procedure of allocating land rights to this company has accelerated, and that the US Company was trying to conform to legal requirements, or at least appear to. Read more from……………………

  http://www.relufa.org/documents/201310_Dispossessedatallcosts.pdf

SAVING THE LOCAL FARMERS
Email - betockvoices@gmail.com


Betockvoices@gmail.com