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 http://apps.facebook.com/petitions/1/stop-blackstone-deforestation/
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)
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.
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:
Manager for the Global and Regional Conservation Policy
+41 22 364 9026
Director for Conservation Strategy and Performance
+41 22 364 9327