Sithe Global Sustainable Oils Cameroon Limited, SG SOC a subsidiary of Herakles Farms was already as heading towards a cash crush says a Greenpeace nine point report titled “The Truth behind Herakles Farms False Promises in Cameroon”.
The company signed a convention with the Cameroon government on September 17, 2009 to create a big industrial plantation of palm oil and refinery on 73,086 hectares of land.
Herakles Farms has recently suspended its activities in Cameroon following an order from the Cameroon Ministry of Forestry to suspend logging in Talangaye in the Nguti region, a release from the company reads.
However, the Ministry suspended the felling of trees until the company fulfills the conditions after certain administrative tolerance for them to get the required authorizations.
The Ministry suspended logging following denunciations in the implementation of the project such as non-respect of forest regulation and complaints from the riverine population.
Irene Wabiwa in charge of Greenpeace Forest Campaign exposed the financial situation of the company besides the other discrepancies of what the company is and what it presents to the world.
Comparing information gotten from inside the company and what is made public; Wabiwa says the company lied to investors and Cameroonians, local communities and the public.
Herakles Farms has been using the Ghana pilot project to project its image. But, Wabiwa says this project is in the being sold in the market for a value less that the investment, 12m dollars against 25m dollars to pay some of the financiers.
She opines that if the company is not capable of operating a pilot centre like that in Ghana it would be impossible to manage 73,086 hectares.
SG SOC told investors it “has obtained a 99 year lease and also received the required permits and approvals to commence field operation”.
But, the convention does not exempt the company from acquiring the necessary legal document, Wabiwa argues.
Herakles according to the Cameroon law was supposed to obtain a presidential decree for any concession above 50 hectares to carry on its operations which till date, they have not obtained.
The wood form the trees felled was government property, Herakles had said, but, it was revealed that in reality, the company was planning to sell the wood estimated at 60-90 m dollars.
Also, it was discovered that the company used bribes and fraudulent means to corrupt actors to get government support.
Against this backdrop, Greenpeace demanded for a moratorium on attribution of concessions in Cameroon.
Reacting to the Greenpeace report, Samuel Nguiffo, Executive Secretary, Centre for Environment and Development, CED, identified the lessons to be learnt from the Herakles story.
“The suspension letter of the Minister of Forestry and Wild Life was a courageous decision”, he averred.
The communique of Herakles was also interesting to read, he says, arguing that when government says stop logging until…, does not mean the company should stop operations as they did and paid off about 700 hundred workers.
Nguiffo concluded that SG SOC does not wish to develop Cameroon, but make money by depriving the country of land and resource.
Hailing the suspension, World Wildlife Fund said it had raised concerns on the impacts of SG SOC’s activities in a biodiversity hotspot, thereby destroying high conservation value forests and habitat for several endangered species.
WWF regretted that Herakles completely disregarded the existence of land use structures in the area such as farmlands, buffer zones and wildlife corridors liking protected areas, and tree felling in a forest without prior authorization from the ministry of forestry.
“Herakles Farms activities in in the Southwest region of Cameroon were and remain illegal. They do not have all necessary permits required to operate in this high biodiversity area,” Hanson Njiforti, WWF Cameroon Country Director says.
Interviewed By Leocadia Bongben
The International Centre for Forestry Research, in line with activities to mark its 20 years of forestry research, organized a conference on the theme, “sustainable forest management in Central Africa: yesterday, today and tomorrow”. Providing an evaluation of the conference, CIFOR Regional Director, Richard Eba’a Atyi argued that the REDD (Reductions of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) process is still poorly defined. He says governments should engage in development plans such that REDD Funds should come as additive and not wait for everything from the international community who should still define the process. In this interview, Eba’a Atyi identified the achievements, challenges and prospects of CIFOR.
What Evaluation at the end of the Centre For International Forestry Research, CIFOR conference?
The conference aimed at evaluating the past 20 years, and during the conference there was actually an evaluation. We particularly reaffirmed the importance of forest in Central Africa, which continues to play a critical role of conservation of biodiversity in the world. However, until now, even if the rate of deforestation had so far been low, there is a serious menace to the forest which has to be examined. The threats are not necessarily negative but have to be tackled, and among these, is population growth. The forest can no longer be managed in the same way when there are 20m inhabitants as when there were on 10 million inhabitants. So there is a demographic pressure exerted on the forest. There is also agriculture, particularly, industrial agriculture policy, which is legitimate, but, which has to be managed. Also, there is a threat from mining extractions. So, if there is effort to manage these threats, the rate of deforestation though still low, risks increasing. On the other hand, we see that poverty remains high as the vulnerable population continues to lean on the same forest for their needs. There is the growing demand for the forest and other sectors, thus the need to manage all together.
What are the concrete proposals following the evaluation?
We have proposed that all the actors work together not in a sectoral manner, but, follow the landscape management approach. There are different types of resources in a landscape and there is need for a concerted approach of managing landscapes.
How can this be done in a country where the Ministries are managed independently?
We do not design those who govern, but, on the field they have to collaborate and work in a concerted manner for agriculture and forest problems. Even if we take the regional development plans, these have to take into account all these aspects. We do not want that the different ministries, Agriculture, Environment, Forestry draw different development plans, but, come out with an integrated development plan where the needs and advantages of the actors are recognized.
There is also the issue of Financing, what is envisaged and what would be done?
There was a big discussion on the financing of the REDD (Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) process. It was realized that there are a lot of expectations on the REDD process which unfortunately at the international level are still poorly defined. The international community should define more how REDD should be done, in the form of individual projects or by country and that those who take commitments should fulfill them such that REDD attains its objectives. But, one of the outcomes of the discussions is that what is proposed by the REDD strategy like the intensification of agriculture normally should be done through the development plans. Instead of waiting for finances from the international community, governments have to develop agriculture for their countries and citizens. To my understanding, instead there should be REDD Funds, potentially as additives, so, countries like Cameroon with a vision 2035 and Gabon with an emergence plan have to mobilize funds and not wait for the bulk of development to be financed by REDD Funds. It maybe crude to say, but this was one of the outcomes of the debate.
CIFOR, 20 years after, in terms of research what are the achievements?
It should be noted that CIFOR is a research organization which strives to influence policies. Our objective is to have information for decision makers to design better policies. For example, we worked on the norms of sustainable forest management, and the norms lead to forest certification which now implement in Central Africa on 5million hectares. CIFOR contributed to the establishment of sustainable management norms of 26 hectares of forest. CIFOR also worked more on non-timber forest products, through identification, characterization and analyzed their economic value and sectors of non-forest timber products and made proposals that have been included in general directives of non-timber forest products. Cameroon and Gabon have created in their administration departments that focus only on non-timber forest products. These are the kinds of policy results that CIFOR envisage.
On climate change we have worked though still at the beginning, on adaptation to climate change and the results have been taken into account in the national development plan of the Central African Republic. We are a small organization and for us to get influence we do not have to be limited geographically to a small surface area, but influence the decision maker to have big impact.
What are the perspectives?
An interesting perspective for CIFOR- that has identified in the world, six big sentinel landscapes- large space big enough to conduct Geo-physical research on the socio-economic and bio-physic plan and Central Africa is one of them. These would be in the Southwest of Cameroon, North Congo and some parts of Gabon; we are still working on it. A socio-economic monitoring disposition would be installed to monitor the natural environmental for about 20years. We would work periodically to analyze and put the results to governments concerned. The advantage of this approach is that it helps us to compare with other tropical regions.
Working in Central Africa for 20 years, what are the challenges?
The challenges are enormous. We are in the Central African Forest Commission, COMIFAC zone which is made up of ten countries and in these countries there is lack of desired the infrastructure. The biggest portion of forest is found in DR Congo with 60 per cent of the forest in the Congo Basin and traveling is quite problematic. The second challenge is the political environment that can at times be very unstable in some countries. A third challenge which may also become subject of our research is the issue of governance generally in central Africa. But, we have to work with government to come out with propositions of solutions. There is also the natural complexity of the ecosystem in the Congo Basin which accounts for the rich biodiversity but, it can also difficult to work within this context.
CIFOR seems to tilt focus more on flora, why?
CIFOR focuses even more on people who depend on the forest. We are looking for the well-being of the population. Since the forest is their centre of life, we given them focus and even more on vulnerable population like women and children and the marginalized like the autochthones.
What is done to ensure participatory management of forest with this population?
There are so many things but, let me make something clarify that, normally CIFOR is not a development organization. Our services conduct research to put the results to governments. We have some pilot centres, like with the ‘oKok’ (Gnetum Africanum) where we helped the ministry of agriculture on a domestication project and other small sites to study what the population does in terms of climate change and propose for them to vulgarize our results. As researchers, we communicate more with policy makers to inform them, because they have no time to do research and when they get the results these should reflect their need for election and also provide them with a scientific base.
Concerning projects on non- timber forest products, do you not find this contrary to your mission?
The populations have been used, but the rhythm of growth of non-timber forest products may no longer be sufficient for the population. So they have to supplement through domestication, which is not prohibited, they have to also establish rules to regulate access to ensure sustainability.
By Leocadia Bongben
Zoning could be a solution to the challenge of agro-industries and mining expansion in the Congo Basin, participants at the CIFOR conference on Sustainable Management of Forest in Central Africa, have said.
Zoning is a model of integrating wide range forest based values into land use allocation.
For the past four years the Congo Basin forest has been under pressure from agro-industries from all over the world, with interests in felling trees to plant rubber and palm oil in the humid part of central Africa.
This is driven by the demand for palm oil in Asia with African becoming the best opportunity as seen already in Liberia, Ghana, Gabon and DR Congo.
Against this backdrop, there seems to be an agreement among the participants on the importance of zoning, which has to be more inclusive to include mining, agriculture and other lands uses including conservation.
Taking Cameroon as a case study, Arend van der Goes, Environment and Social Development Consultant regrets that one of the constraints in land use planning in Cameroon is the lack of mechanisms and institutions that allow for a balanced land use planning.
“Balanced planning has to take into consideration the environmental, social and economic needs”, Goes says.
“If Cameroon continues with different ministries having different mandates, doing their own thing, the balance planning is far-fetched. There has to be a way for the Ministries to communicate together and decide together”.
Samuel Nguiffo, Executive Secretary of the Centre for Environment and Development points out that the conflict witnessed in the allocation of concessions in the Campo Ma’an areas is new and natural.
He maintains that zoning in Cameroon was limited to 1975, adding that issues of payment for ecosystem services REDD would have to be considered in the new zoning.
While advancing the need to construct an urgent zoning, government should suspend the attribution of land concessions and define the criteria for the selection of a company among others, he says.
Clemantine Ananga Messina, Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development states that the Ministry of State Property and Land Tenure is carrying out a land survey in order to distribute land in collaboration with the Ministries of Agriculture, Forestry by 2015.
In order to make up for the 2000 hectares of forest land destroyed by small farm holders who account for 60 per cent of food production, Messina announced that government is embarking on the implantation of a fertilizer factory by 2015 to increase productivity.
Though she talks about the tractor factory, it is not a secret that the project seems to be a failure given issues surrounding the implantation of the factory.
There are plans to conclude partnerships with agro-industries for them to nurture small holders who would install their small businesses around the vicinity of the Agro- Industries, as government plan to balance agro-industrial production and food security needs.
Instead of expansion, plantations should rejuvenate to increase yield given that the national space is not elastic the participants suggest.
There is need to improve on the issues of concessions, land use planning for development and conservation to thrive in the Congo Basin, participants conclude.
Gone are the days when stakeholders focused on climate change as disaster in which humanity was doomed.
Climate change is witnessed through the changes in global atmospheric conditions leading to variations.
More and more the debate on climate change has evolved from only fighting climate- in mitigation and adaptation to include making money from climate change.
The Yaoundé May 17 workshop opened dialogue between the government, the civil society and representatives of development partners on the impact of climate change and the opportunities to be exploited at the international level.
The workshop authorized by the Ministry of Environment and Protection of Nature was organized by the central African Regional office of the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance and Bio-resource Development and Conservation programme, BDCP.
Government has been making effort to lay the ground work for the country to benefit from climate change.
In November 2012, Cameroon elaborated and validated its R-PP Readiness Preparation Proposal-a document which indicates the country strategy of the REDD project- Reduction of Emissions form Deforestation and Degradation worth 28million US dollars.
This is like a shopping document that enables the country to source for finances, Dr. Joseph Amougou, Cameroon climate change focal point says.
Feasibility studies have been conducted on how Cameroon could sell carbon at Ngoyla Mintom. For Amougou, this is a project which consists in valorizing forests different from exploitation.
“The project aims at evaluating the carbon that could have been sent to the atmosphere from forest exploitation, then give the emissions an economic value”.
It would also valourize the forest through eco-tourism and bio-diversity. The feasibility study, (which needs to be verified) could indicates that the project could provide FCFA 12billion to the economy every year to be shared between the government and communities.
Another economic study by a British indicates that REDD could represent about 200-250millon dollars per year in economic potential.
This is an indicator- an opportunity of what climate change represents for the economy, but he maintained that the projects have to be verified if they real or fake.
Every project has pros and cons; if we compare this project to forest exploitation we are going to take the one which is profitable. If such projects are profitable to the economy, then government would accompany them, averred.
Augustine Njamnshi, Executive Secretary of BDCP, Central African Representative of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance says civil society are of the opinion that if there are any advantages from the climate change adaptation finances, it should be in such a way that Cameroonians can compete fairly with other countries.
Some past projects which have jobs created jobs have been to the detriment of the environment and the population, contrary to environmental protection, health and community well-being.
For climate change money to benefit the population, civil society organizations stress that the wealth should be channeled to the interest of the people and not some few individuals.
Honourable Cyprian Awudu Mbaya, Executive President, of the Pan-African Parliamentarian Network on Climate Change, has been contributing in the fight against climate change through sensitization in the constituencies as representatives of the people the focus now on engaging discussions on yielding economic profit.
To him, 92 per cent of Africa’s ecosystems are found in the Congo Basin and there is need to make the best out of it to turn Cameroon into a green economy, reduce pollution and promote food security.
“We have been influencing government action by enacting environmental laws and mounting pressure on the government to provide an enabling environment for all the actors to conduct research to help fight climate change”, he concluded.
By Leocadia Bongben
Theresa Berinyuy is nine years old, growing into adolescence innocently.
Like many young girls her age, she is unaware that one day she would be exposed to cervical cancer by the time she starts sexual activity.
Cervical cancer is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the human papilloma virus.
If there is no sexual activity, there is no cervical cancer. Also, early sexual activity and multiple partners lead to a high risk of cervical cancer, Dr Pierre-Marie Tebeu, Gynecologist-Cancer Specialist at the Yaoundé University Teaching Hospital, CHU, says.
The vaccine against the human papilloma virus is therefore more effective for young girls between 9-12 years, before they get sexually active.
A vaccine is substance used to stimulate the production of antibodies and provide immunity against one or several diseases, prepared from weak or killed forms of the microbe or its poisons.
In the past five years in Cameroon, out of every 1000 girls, aged 15-19,about 120 get pregnant, protecting girls prior the sexually active age is necessary.
Though adolescent fertility rate per thousand for girls of 15-19 in the past five years has been gradually decreasing, the statistics is an indication that at this age most girls are already sexually active and exposed to cervical cancer viruses.
In Cameroon, every year, 1000 women present symptoms of cervical cancer, unfortunately deaths are estimated at 50 per cent- 500 women die from cervical cancer every year, Tebeu states.
Of the 21,000 women screened at the Cameroon Baptiste Convention,CBC Health Services, 16 per cent present pre-cancer symptoms, Simon Manga, Head of Women’s Health Programme and Family Planning Supervisor, revealed.
Unfortunately, Cameroon presently has not introduced the vaccine against cervical cancer.
However, many Cameroonian mothers like Ndeh Mary are not aware of the existence of a vaccine against cervical cancers at all.
Many are surprised to hear that a vaccine exists.
Of the two types of vaccines in the market against the cervical cancer viruses-is the bivalent vaccine- directed against two strands of cancer viruses, and the quadrivalent- against four strands, says Tebeu.
The limitation of the vaccine is that there are about 20-30 types of viruses that cause cervical cancer; there is no vaccine that targets more than two genotypes responsible for only about 70-80 per cent cervical cancer in the world.
In Cameroon, preliminary studies showed that the vaccine targeted only 50 per cent cervical cancer viruses, the Gynecologist maintained.
There are the 16 and 18- two types of microbes that cause cancer virus found in 80 per cent cancer viruses in the world, but in Cameroon there are other microbes, the type 45, which seems to be frequent in the Cameroon series of viruses, Tebeu indicates.
He suggests that for a vaccine to be effective, it should be adopted to the geographical region given that the ecology of the virus is not the same.
The Cameroon Baptiste Convention, CBC Health Services in 2010 received a donation of 19,200 doses of Gardasil-(quadrivalent vaccine against four types of viruses) from a US based company, administered to 6400 girls.
The programme targeted 85 per cent of girls from 9-13 in three regions Northwest, Southwest and the Centre region with all three doses administered free against a voluntary fee of FCFA 4000, Manga said.
He hints that it is difficult in countries where the vaccine has been introduced, to reach 100 per cent vaccination.
Some of the girls may decline, parents decline, rumours, and side effects among others.
The project executed in collaboration with the government, was carried out in two phases; pilot phase with 1600 girls, second phase, with 4800 girls with an 85 per cent success rate.
Some of the girls did not get the three doses and Manga said it means such girls were not protected, but with two doses there is some level of protection and for all three doses, there is full protection for life.
There was also a vaccine against cancer at the period of the CBC Gardasil project, available at the National Vaccination Centre-Hygiene Mobile for FCFA 35,000 per dose – FCFA105, 000 for the three doses. Today the vaccine is out of stock.
Cameroon did start a demonstration of a cancer vaccine- that is, tested in two districts with girls of 9-12 years.
However, GAVI did not approve of Cameroon’s request to introduce the vaccine around the country, after demonstration, a stage which every country has to go through, prior implementation.
Dr. Jean Thomas Bikoy, Associate Permanent Secretary of the Enlarged Programme of Vaccination, PEV, explains that Cameroon, following the Demographic and Health Survey, with Mixed Indicators DHS-MICS Cameroon failed fulfill the requirements.
“The DHS-MICS found a low rate of national vaccination coverage, with the difference below 10 points, even when our administrative coverage was good, GAVI disapproved our request”.
Cameroon in submitted the request in September this year, besides good national vaccination coverage, would have to incorporate technical and partnership accords with sectors such as Ministries of Basic and Secondary education.
This would be to ensure effective sensitization in schools with the target age group.
To avoid issues of morality as was the case with tetanus vaccine, where it was alleged that the vaccine was meant sterilize girls, there is need for social and community mobilization.
Manga dispelled the rumour of sterilizing girls, by stating that, “Three girls got pregnant after the first dose of Gardasil vaccine we had to be stop, the vaccine is not administered during pregnancy. A lady who got the three doses got pregnant and delivered afterwards”.
Tebeu advices that stakeholder be informed of what a vaccine is, how it works and the benefits, let people know the vaccine is not meant to sterilize young girls as was rumoured with the tetanus vaccine, but let them know the vaccine is meant to prevent cervical cancer.
Bikoy agreed that if people are aware that cancer is a real problem for the country, nobody would refuse to adhere to vaccination.
The experts all agree that, “Vaccination is the best primary prevention, but is it advisable to go for diagnosis”.
Cervical cancer diagnosis is very simple, with FCFA 5000, the diagnosis can be done, FCFA 2000 for consumables and FCFA 3000 for the test, the result is known immediately at a pre-disease stage, and treated efficiently, Tebeu says.
“Cameroon should develop a wide vision, opt for a vaccine and continue with diagnosis” he concludes.
By Leocadia Bongben
Cameroonians can now purchase three female condoms for FCFA100 down from one condom at FCFA 100.
The drop is intended to encourage the use of female condom as a measure of fighting HIV/AIDS unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
Andre Mama Fouda, Minister of Public Health announced the drop as he urged women “to take ownership of their condom and take things under control”.
“This evolution is a component to prevent unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS”.
“AIDS is still present in the society and remains a public health problem” he said.
Following the 2011 Demographic and Health Survey with Multiple Indicators, the national HIV/AIDS prevalence stands at 4.3 per cent for the population of 15-49years.
The prevalence for women is pegged at 5.6 per cent, attributed to their vulnerability-biological composition.
Generally, some regions in the country are seen to have a high HIV/AIDS prevalence than others. There is a discrepancy with the figures read by the Minister of Public Health, South 10.6 per cent, Yaoundé 8.8 per cent, East 8.8 per cent Southwest 7.9percent and Northwest 7.2 per cent as opposed to the 2011 DHS- MICS result.
The 2011 DHS-MICS shows the South 7.2 per cent, Yaoundé 6.3 per cent, Southwest 5.7 per cent, East 6.3 and Northwest 6.3 per cent.
However, these are the regions with the highest prevalence.
Against this background, government says would take measures to reduce new infections.
Auguste Kpognon, Executive Director of the Cameroon Association of Social Marketing, ACMS, acknowledging the use of the female condom as advancement in the fight against HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancies with 3.1 million distributed.
Available since 2009, the female condom, Protectiv’ sold at the same price now as the male condom, is said to be of good quality, certified by the National Medical Control Laboratory, LANACOME.
However, Kpognon identified socio-economic and cultural barriers as hampering the adoption of the female condom.
Though the problem of price has been solved, some women are still reticent about the use of the female condom.
Many women say have never tried this condom and do not intend to.
One of them, Noaussi Nathalie says she has never used the female condom because it is not practical. “Just a look at the condom and don’t feel like using it”.
But, Martha Bengha, she has used the condom and seems to be comfortable with it. “I was comfortable and I think my husband was too.”
Promoters of the female condom advice that women get familiar with it for some time, insert it to have a feel instead of using it for intercourse without prior familiarization.
Despite the huge potential in mineral resources, Cameroon’s mining sector is yet to contribute meaningful to the development of the country.
Presently, the mining sector with only 40 per cent of the territory explored, contributes about 1 percent to the national budget, mainly from artisanal mining, the Secretary of State at the Ministry of Mines Industries and Technological Development, Fru Calestus Gentry told the press.
Announcing the holding of the maiden International Mining Conference & Exhibition, he attributed the limited contribution of the mining sector to the budget to absence of analytical laboratories among others.
Besides, there is the challenge of taking care of artisanal mining in relation to the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme- the institution of traceability chain for diamond from extraction to exportation.
A study conducted by Willy Cedric Foumena and Napoleon Jaff Bamendjo under the banner of the Network for the Fight Against Hunger, RELUFA indicates that access to the market and the socio-economic conditions under which the miners work are chaotic.
Henceforth, Cameroon airports in collaboration with the Kimberly secretariat, would ensure that goods leaving Cameroon have a special seal, Gentry said.
Maiden Mining Conference
The Cameroon International Mining Conference & and Exhibition, dubbed, CIMEC 2013 which is being organized from May-29-31 intends to explore avenues of sustainable mining.
The conference which brings together about 400 participants would be a platform to attract new investors, whip up interest in subsidiary mining activities- laboratory analysis and drilling.
To make Cameroon a new mining destination in the region, the ground has been laid with the introduction of the 2001 mining code amended in 2010, availability of baseline strategy and Geological data from intensive exploration and mining inventories.
The number of permits is increasing with 167mining research permits already granted to companies.
With the going mining projects, the Mballam iron ore is expected to produce 35 million tons of iron ore per year, though still sourcing for finances and diamond reserves estimated at 450 million carats among others.
The government is putting measures in place to ensure transparency and avoid conflicts in the sector by striving to become an EITI compliant country by August 2013.