Environmentalists in Cameroon need your support!

Nasako Besingi. In the background: rainforest cleared for palm oil seedlings Thanks to Nasako Besingi and others, Herakles Farms has only been able to clear a few hectares of rainforest so far. Picture: Greenpeace / Alex Yallop (© Greenpeace / Alex Yallop)
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End of campaign: Oct 17, 2014

“They may threaten and sue us, but the palm oil company is not going to stop our struggle for nature,” writes Nasako Besingi from Cameroon. The environmentalist will be on trial in March for defending rainforest land against Herakles Farms, a U.S.-based palm oil company. Please take a stand against Herakles Farms.

Call to action

To: Patrick Jones, Managing Director, Herakles Farms, New York and Cameroon

The palm oil producer Herakles Farms must stop clearing the rainforest in Cameroon and drop its legal action against local environmentalists immediately.

Read letter

Environmentalist Nasako Besingi and his organization SEFE (Struggle to Economize Future Environment) are fighting for the rights of local communities and protecting the rainforests of southwestern Cameroon. Their work is supported by local groups such as Nature Cameroon and international organizations. For the past three years, U.S. investors have been trying to clear the rainforest for oil palm plantations.

Protests by residents and environmentalists have managed to stall the New York-based Herakles Farms’ project to a large degree. The company has only been able to cut down a few hectares of rainforest to date and had to downsize its plans considerably prior to that: Instead of the requested 70,000 hectares, the government “only” approved plantations totaling 20,000 hectares.

Local communities and Nasako Besingi are fighting for every single tree and are now being targeted by intimidation, legal complaints, arrests and lawsuits. The palm oil company even succeeded in having Nature Cameroon, a local NGO, shut down in November 2013.

In late December 2013, Nasako was summoned at the request of Herakles Farms for “publication of false news via the internet”, an accusation based on a private e-mail he wrote in August 2012. In it, he reports how he was ambushed by junior managers of the company. Herakles referred to the men as “local service providers”.

Nasako and four of his colleagues are also accused of “holding an undeclared public meeting” and handing out anti-Herakles t-shirts. Nasako’s trial is scheduled for March 13, 2014. If convicted, he faces up to six months in prison and a fine the equivalent of 4,000 U.S. dollars or 3,000 euros.

Please sign our international petition to Herakles Farms.

Back­ground

On January 25, 2014, Rainforest Rescue and other 18 environmental organizations issued a joint letter to UN Special Rapporteur Olivier de Schutter, calling on him to investigate and intervene in the Herakles Farms case in Cameroon.

For more information about the palm oil project:

Stop Herakles by Save Wildlife and Land deals in Africa: Cameroon by Oakland Institute

About Nasako Besingi and his organization SEFE:

http://www.afrocubaweb.com/abakwa/nasako-besingi.html

Letter

To: Patrick Jones, Managing Director, Herakles Farms, New York and Cameroon

Dear Mr. Jones,

I call on you and your company, Herakles Farms, to respect the work of environmental and human rights organizations and the fundamental rights to freedom of expression, information and association.

Furthermore, I call on you to drop all legal action against the environmentalist Nasako Besingi and the organizations SEFE and Nature Cameroon at once. Refrain from any form of intimidation and silencing of environmental and human rights organizations in Cameroon. These groups work peacefully to protect rainforests and the rights of communities in the regions in which Herakles Farms is active. Please abandon your palm oil project in the rainforest of Cameroon.

Sincerely,

Topic

The issue – rainforest on our dinner tables and in our fuel tanks

At 66 million tons annually, palm oil is the most commonly produced vegetable oil. Its low world market price and properties that lend themselves to processed foods have led the food industry to use it in half of all supermarket products. Palm oil can be found in frozen pizzas, biscuits and margarine, as well as body creams, soaps, makeup, candles and detergents.

Few people realize that almost half of the palm oil imported into the EU is used as biofuel. Since 2009, the mandatory blending of biofuels into motor vehicle fuels has been a major cause of deforestation.

Oil palm plantations currently cover more than 27 million hectares of the Earth’s surface. Forests and human settlements have been destroyed and replaced by “green deserts” containing virtually no biodiversity on an area the size of New Zealand.

The impact – suffering and death in producer countries, climate havoc

The warm, humid climate of the tropics offers perfect growth conditions for oil palms. Day after day, huge tracts of rainforest in Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa are being bulldozed or torched to make room for more plantations, releasing vast amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. As a consequence, Indonesia – the world’s largest producer of palm oil – temporarily surpassed the United States in terms of greenhouse gas emissions in 2015. With their CO2 and methane emissions, palm oil-based biofuels actually have three times the climate impact of traditional fossil fuels.

Palm oil is not only bad for the climate: As their forest habitat is cleared, endangered species such as the orangutan, Borneo elephant and Sumatran tiger are being pushed closer to extinction. Smallholders and indigenous people who have inhabited and protected the forest for generations are often brutally driven from their land. In Indonesia, more than 700 land conflicts are related to the palm oil industry. Human rights violations are everyday occurrences, even on supposedly “sustainable” and “organic” plantations.

As consumers, we are largely unaware of these broader issues, yet our daily palm oil consumption also impacts our health: refined palm oil contains large amounts of harmful fatty acid esters that are known to damage DNA and cause cancer.

The solution – a revolution on our dinner tables and in our fuel tanks

Only 70,000 orangutans still roam the forests of Southeast Asia, yet the EU’s biofuels policy is pushing them to the brink of extinction. Every new plantation on Borneo is destroying a further piece of their habitat. Stepping up the pressure on policymakers is a must if we want to save our tree-dwelling kin. Apart from that, however, there is still a lot we can do in day-to-day life.

Follow these simple tips to recognize, avoid and combat palm oil:

  1. Enjoy a home-cooked meal: Use your imagination: why not try almond-coconut-pear biscuits? Or pizza with potato and rosemary? A meal cooked from fresh ingredients beats processed foods containing palm oil every time. Oils such as sunflower, olive, rapeseed or flaxseed are ideal for cooking and baking.
  2. Read labels: As of December 2014, labeling regulations in the EU require food products to clearly indicate that they contain palm oil. However, in the case of non-food items such as cosmetics and cleaning products, a wide range of chemical names may still be used to hide the use of palm oil. A quick check of your favorite search engine will turn up palm oil-free alternatives, however.
  3. Remember that the customer is king: Ask your retailers for palm oil-free products. Write product manufacturers and ask them why they aren’t using domestic oils. Companies can be quite sensitive to issues that give their products a bad name, so inquiring with sales staff and contacting manufacturers can make a real difference. Public pressure and increased awareness of the problem have already prompted some producers to stop using palm oil.
  4. Sign petitions and write your elected representatives: Online campaigns put pressure on policymakers responsible for biofuels and palm oil imports. Have you already signed all of Rainforest Rescue’s petitions?
  5. Speak out: Protest marches and creative action on the street raise public and media awareness of the issue, which in turn steps up the pressure on policymakers.
  6. Leave your car at home: Whenever you can, walk, ride a bicycle or use public transport.
  7. Be informed and inform others: Big Business and governments would like us to believe that biofuels are good for the climate and that oil palm plantations are sustainable. Spread the word – share this information with your family and friends and encourage them to rethink their consumption habits. It’s in our hands!