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The Wrong Project in the Wrong Place

 

This EIA short documentary film presents interviews with members of local communities in the Southwest region of Cameroon about the negative impacts felt by a controversial oil palm project. The project, owned by Sithe Global Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC), has not only dispossessed community members of their land, but also threatened biodiversity hotspots and failed to meet development promises.

Since initially being granted a land lease, the SGSOC oil palm project has been associated with illegalities. The company started clear-cutting hundreds of hectares of pristine tropical rainforests and exporting the timber harvested from the concession without the required authorization from the Cameroonian government. The project was also launched without providing a complete environmental impact assessment as required by law.

In the past several years, Cameroon has witnessed a sharp increase in demand for vast areas of land to develop palm oil plantations due to its biophysical conditions, which are suitable for palm oil expansion. More than one million hectares of land have recently been requested for large-scale monoculture plantations. In many cases, these land acquisitions present a high risk of negatively impacting local communities that depend on land and forests for small-scale subsistence agriculture, as well as hunting and the gathering of non-timber forest products. The promises of local employment, infrastructure development including roads, schools and health centers, and electricity for local people have been used to justify advantageous land leases granted to entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, most cases reveal rampant exploitation of natural resources, while the promises for local development are generally not met.