US Investors want a 72,000 hectare palm oil plantation in the middle of the rainforest

by July 9, 2011

Conservation groups are on a last-minute run to stop one of the world's largest private equity firms, the Blackstone Group, from getting a brand new 72,000 hectare palm oil plantation in the middle of the rainforest.

Naturefund, Rettet den Regenwald, Rainforest Foundation UK SAVE Wildlife Conservation Fund and other groups warn that plans are already underway to clear out the biologically-rich rainforest in Southwest Cameroon.

"[It] will be an environmental disaster for the rainforests in Cameroon; even worse than the planned highway through the Serengeti. The oil palm plantation will further fragment this unique landscape, restricting the natural movements of many animal species," says SAVE in their new facebook campaign "Stop Blackstone Deforestation in Cameroon".

The Blackstone Group, based in New York City, is the world's 5th largest private equity firm. Blackstone, which owns Sithe Global Power, is heavily invested in the new Cameroon deforestation drive, along with Herakles Farms (Herakles Capital).

"In [the Cameroon] landscape are several protected areas, including Korup National Park, Bakossi National Park, Banyang Mbo Wildlife Sanctuary, and Rumpi Hills Forest Reserve. These protected areas represent a stronghold for many endangered, unique species. If they are lost from these areas, they will likely be lost from this world forever. This oil palm plantation will further isolate these protected areas and increase bushmeat hunting pressure. Hunting for bushmeat, the meat of wild animals, is already driving large-bodied mammal species to extinction. This oil palm plantation will lead to increased bushmeat hunting and decimate forests and wildlife," continues SAVE.

A group of Women from the Fabe village, threatened by oil palm
The ancestral lands and livelihoods of the Baka, Bakola, Bedzang and Bagyeli (BBBB)--so-called 'Pygmy' peoples--will also be lost in the rainforest cull.

With a combined population of about 45,000 the Baka, Bakola, Bedzang and Bagyeli live in 38 small villages along the edge of the protected areas of the rain forest. They are heavily dependent on its resources for subsistence.

In a strange and disturbing twist, their subsistence way of life is being used as a selling point for the new plantation project. The NGO "All for Africa" champions the plantation as "Development Assistance". All for Africa asserts that it will be a "lasting development project" that will bring thousands of new jobs to the Indigenous population.

"Experiences from Asia show however: that is usually a deception," says SAVE. "After the large companies remove the tropical wood, nothing remains for the rural population [but] rooted out surfaces. On the plantations they work... at best... for exploitative low wages."

In this case, the deception runs a little bit deeper. "All for Africa" was founded by none other than Bruce Wrobel, the Managing Director of Sithe Global. Wrobel is also the founder of Herakles Capital Corporation.

It's corporate green-washing at its best. After all, when an "eco-friendly" NGO like All for Africa steps in to support the plantation, than it must be good, right?

Well, no amount of green-out can cover up the fact that 72,000 acres of pristine rainforest is about to be ripped from the Earth's surface, severely impacting the rainforest's biodiversity and destroying the ancestral lands and livelihoods of the Baka, Bakola, Bedzang and Bagyeli.

Updates, background, and more photos can be found at the facebook page Stop Blackstone Deforestation in Cameroon!

What You Can Do

Here's a few things you can do to protect Cameroon's Rainforest and its Indigenous Peoples.

1) Sign SAVE's petition, aimed at CEO Bruce Wrobel

2) Send a letter to Mr Ngolle Ngolle, Minister of Environment for the Republic Cameroon, asking him to reject the palm oil project

3) Call Herakles Capital, All for Africa or Sithe Global Power to voice your concerns about the project

Herakles Capital (responsible company for the planatation)

Herakles Capital
245 Park Avenue, 38th Floor
New York, NY 10167

All for Africa (markets the palm oil as social project, partners with Sithe Global)

If calling All for Africa, ask to speak with Diane MacDonald (she’s the Director of Operations) – she will likely be unavailable, so ask to leave a message for her.

245 Park Ave, 38th Floor
New York, NY 10167, U.S.A.

Sithe Global Power (partners with All for Africa)

If calling Sithe Global Power, ask to leave a message for Mr. Brian Kubeck, the Senior Vice President of Sithe Global Power.

245 Park Ave.
38th Floor
New York, NY 10167

You may want to say the following:

I am calling because I am deeply concerned about an oil palm project that All for Africa is involved with in Cameroon. As I understand, All for Africa and its partners aim to cut down over 270 square miles of forest to create an oil palm plantation in South West Cameroon. This forest is home to over 45,000 people and many endangered animal species are also found there. Many of the people located in that area do not want this oil palm plantation and are already protesting against it. I also understand that you and your partners refuse to make public the social and environmental impact reports.
I am calling to ask you to stop all activities related to this development until local villagers are are given a voice to determine the fate of their forests and until independent social and biological scientists can determine the real impact this will have on the forests, wildlife, and people of the region. I will also be calling conservation and human rights organizations working in the region to voice my concerns. Thank you for your time.

You may also want to call WWF and ask them politely to take part in protection of the Korup-Region:

Susan Brown
Manager for the Global and Regional Conservation Policy
+41 22 364 9026

PJ Stephenson
Director for Conservation Strategy and Performance
+41 22 364 9327


  • James Higgins
    July 11, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    James Higgins, Colonialism Lives! Only now it's not Britain or Belgium, but multinational corporations.


  • mindi
    July 20, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    you guys are nuts. We have enough problems in our country for god sake. And allforafrica has done so much for Africa. You are barking up the wrong tree.


  • Epingo Raphael
    January 2, 2012 at 3:29 am

    I come from the area where the new oil palm plantations are been established and I do not like it any one bit more than you do.
    Just close by we have another large oil palm exploitation company now jointly owned by the Cameroon government, Unilever PLC, Shell and some other stake holders. The people of Ndian have benefitted very little from the exproriation of our lands by this companies. No roads,royalties are hardly ever paid for the lands exploited, the native sons and daughters take back seat in the appointment of senior management in these companies, taxes are not paid to the local councils so the councils can carry out local development projects to benefit the people.
    There is petrol being explored and pumped out of the area but as a reward for these exploitations, we are saddled with a war due because the explorers care more about their profits and less about the people of the area. These conglomerates pit Cameroonians against Nigerians in war while exploitating the oil, this with the collusion of the Dictatorship in the Cameroons through the use of the armed and corrupt tugs called gendarmes who brutalise citizens,be they Cameroonians or Nigerians just to extricate a few CFA from the poor people. This happens with the blessings of the local administrative authorities who get a share of the ill-gotten cash.
    Having spent close to twenty years working for another oil palm industry (PAMOL) before my move to the U.S., I know how much damage is done to the environment due to deforestation, CO2 emittance by the oil mills, use of some fertilizers for improved and increased crop(FFB). These fertilizers usually leach to the water sources if and when it rains. I know what I am talking about especially as to water supply and you can check these out in the Pamol camps in Lobe, Bai and Ndian, haven lived the penury that happens during the dry season.


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