Cameroon: Local communities say Socapalm infringes on their land rights; includes comments by Socapalm and parent firm Socfin

Author: Victoria Schneider, The Guardian , Published on: 28 July 2015

"The palm oil company at the centre of a bitter land rights struggle in Cameroon", 27 July 2015

...Socapalm is trying to further expand production and help Cameroon become a net exporter of palm oil. However, the plans have struggled to overcome objections from the local population in Cameroon...who are opposed to the development of land they consider to belong to them...the previously state-owned Socapalm was sold to a conglomerate of private companies, the majority interest held by the global agribusiness Socfin in 2000...Villagers, labourers and NGOs have complained about poor living and working conditions in the Socapalm plantations...When asked about these concerns, the chairperson of Socapalm’s board, Michel Noulowe, said: “Rome was not built in one day.” Projects like the renovation of housing facilities, the construction of new schools and clinics, he promises, are underway...for Elong...the main concern is the land Socapalm leases from the state...Negotiations have been ongoing with the villagers, but Socfin has admitted to being unhappy with the grassroots movement. In an interview with the Guardian, Luc Boedt, CEO of Socfin, said: “We deal with the real stakeholders. We speak with elected people and not some excited villagers.” Local NGOs say the company needs to engage with local communities...“Land is an issue, especially here in Africa”, says Jaff Bamenjo, co-ordinator at Relufa, a Cameroonian NGO that works on food security. He says that local communities believe that Socapalm is expanding onto land that belongs to them...Samuel Nguiffo, director of the Centre for Environment and Development and...points the blame at government officials for the problems. ‘The government gives out land without designating specific areas for palm oil. There are no conditions, no system,” he concludes.

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Related companies: Socfin